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What are the Turbinates and Why Do I Care?

Beyond our sinuses and maybe our septum, most people have little more knowledge of the anatomy of their nose. As such, they can’t tell if they simply snore sometimes or if they actually suffer from sleep apnea. 

One culprit is the nasal turbinates. When the turbinates are overly large, whether due to inflammation or simple genetics, it may be necessary to reduce their size to improve airflow. Dr. Volpi performs Coblation turbinate reduction. 

But in this blog, let’s just get into what this unknown part of the nose, the turbinates, is all about. 

What are the turbinates? 

The turbinates, which are also called nasal concha or conchae, are shell-shaped networks of bones, vessels, and tissue within the nasal passageways. In a normal nose, there are three turbinates, the superior (upper), middle, and inferior (lower) turbinates. In some cases, there is a fourth turbinate, the supreme turbinate, which is located higher than the superior turbinate. 

In between each turbinate is space, known as meati, named for the turbinate that is directly above the space. These spaces form our nasal passageways, which direct airflow through our nose. 

What is the job of the turbinates? 

The turbinates are responsible for warming, humidifying, and filtering the air we breathe. From every one to seven hours, our nasal passageways start a cycle of shrinking one turbinate while the other turbinate becomes larger. This makes the corresponding airways narrower, restricting airflow, while the shrinking turbinate increases airflow. Because the turbinates are alternating during this process, we don’t feel congested, as our overall airflow has not changed. 

Problems with the turbinates 

Our nasal turbinates can be associated with several disorders. One of those of particular interest to Dr. Volpi and eos Sleep is sleep apnea. Enlarged turbinates directly affect airflow. If the airflow is not sufficient, and if there are issues with the soft tissues in the back of the throat, the enlarged turbinate or turbinates will lead to the disruption in airflow that is sleep apnea. 

Turbinate reduction 

Dr. Volpi performs turbinate reduction to treat these problems: 

  •     Sinus-related snoring and sleep apnea
  •     Chronic nasal congestion
  •     Severe or chronic nasal allergies

If you have symptoms of sleep apnea, it may be due to enlarged turbinates. Give Dr. Volpi a call at eos Sleep, (212) 873-6036, to schedule an appointment.

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