There are three pairs of turbinates (inferior, middle and superior) on the lateral walls of the nasal cavity inside the nose. These scroll-like, spongy bones divide the nasal airway into four groove-like passages. Their job is to clean and humidify the air as it moves through your nose into your lungs.
The inferior turbinate runs the length of the nasal airway and is about the size of your finger. It provides surface area of mucous membrane to humidify the air as it passes through and to collect dust and dirt on its surface. When the inferior turbinates become enlarged due to a condition such as environmental allergies, it causes nasal obstruction. The nasal blockage can be improved by reducing the size of the inferior turbinates and thereby decreasing airway resistance.
Some patients don’t respond favorably to medications intended to reduce the size and activity of the turbinates. In these patients, who have what is termed ‘refractory symptoms’ of turbinate hypertrophy (enlargement), surgery may help provide them more long-term relief.