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Nose Blockage
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Nose Blockage


This is more of a curiosity than a serious medical problem. For as long as I can remember, I've occasionally had problems breathing through my left nostril. Meaning, for short periods of time, I'd feel no air exiting the nostril at all. This happens in all seasons, under all conditions, regardless of whether or not I'm sick.

Interestingly, when I go to bed and lay down on my left side, the left nostril stops exhaling. When I lay on my right, it clears up. This happens every time I try it. My suspicion is it's got something to do with putting pressure on those sides of my head via the pillow, but I suppose gravity could be playing a role somehow too.

One potentially useful sidenote is that when I get nosebleeds, it's ALWAYS through the left nostril. All of this information leads me to believe I have a physical blockage up there, perhaps a foreign object. I'm wondering what the possibilities are and whether or not it's worth my time to go into a doctor's office. Thanks.

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This is referred to a "the nasal cycle". Within your nose are a set of tissues called "turbinates". These are erectile tissues that will swell and shrink according to conditions such as seasonal change, altitude, barometric pressure and hormonal change. When you are on your side, blood will fill the turbinate in the dependent position, or the turbinate that is closest to the ground- This will result in swelling and obstruction. The turbinates will respond to gravity as well as the other factors that I listed- That is why the astronauts  complain bitterly about nasal congestion- in space there is no gravity and the turbinates fill with blood and lead to obstruction.    

Eric Genden, MD
I too have the same problem for many years now. This has to due with the blood vessels inside your nose . My nose is always blocked as well.  The ENT doctor at Mayo Clinic said that that is from Vasomotor rhinitis.  I also have post nasal drainage along with the blockage.  Doctor say there is nothing that they can do for this.  Mention this to your doctor.
Thanks Genden.  I read more about turbinates and that seems to be the best explanation.  I'm noticing this more and more as the weather gets warmer -- drinking cold water/cooling myself down seems to clear up the nostril.  I also notice that when I do things like converse with people, play music, exercise, etc. the nostril clears up as well.  I read that the nasal cycle was linked to neurological activity, but maybe that's not well understood, or possibly pseudoscientific.
I've found two things that will quickly and very dramatically open up my nasal passages (even if only temporarily):

1. Sex (even before things really get going); and

2. Walking up and down stairs.

I presume #1 has to do with some hormonal change, but I don't get why walking up and down stairs clears up my nose!?

I too have the "stuffy" nostril in the down position. That problem seems to be worse at times, and then for weeks or months it won't  bother me. Then I'm back to turning from side to side all night.

I have also heard about vasomotor rhinitis in connection with this, thought I don't have other symptoms of this (no runny nose). And yeah, I have a lot of postnasal drip!

The postnasal drip seems to have decreased considerably since having two years of allergy shots (from my neuro-otologist, who thinks allergies can make chronic dizziness worse, so I tried the shots...).

Nancy T.
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