Enlarged turbinates are referred to medically as "turbinate hypertrophy". The turbinates are ridge like swelling projecting in from the side walls of both nasal passages. Usually, there are 3 sets: inferior, middle and superior. They are comprised of bone and overlying soft tissue. They function to humidify inspired air which is important for exposure to delicate lung tissue. The turbinates also have sensors that detect the speed and volume of passing air, which creates the sensation of a satisfying breath.
Problems may arise when the structure of the turbinate changes, most commonly resulting in a blocked nose. This may relate to colds and flu, allergies, non-allergic rhinitis (e.g. pregnancy or chemical exposure) or structural changes that develop. Enlarged turbinates are easily diagnosed with nasal endoscopy. A CT scan of the sinuses will also reveal the extent of enlargement.
Management of turbinate hypertrophy usually comprises nasal sprays, aimed at targeting the underlying cause of the swelling. If sprays are ineffective, other methods of turbinate reduction can be considered. There are numerous technologies available in this regard, including coblation, microdebrider or cautery. Frequently, it is combined with other nasal surgery such a a septoplasty or endoscopic sinus surgery.
YourENT surgeon will explore the advantages and disadvantages of turbinate reduction with you.