What Can Cause Nasal Congestion?

Nasal congestion, also typically referred to as head congestion or a stuffy nose, happens when nasal passages enlarge with too much fluid, leading to a stuffy sensation that can also be coupled with nasal secretion.

The cause of nasal or head congestion is typically something that irritates or aggravates the nasal membranes. The most common causes are:

Bacterial and viral infections. Infections like the flu or the common cold can usually result in nasal congestion given that while your body is attempting to fend off an infection, it produces copious amounts of mucus.

Allergens. An allergy may trigger nasal congestion upon exposure to an allergen. The most common allergic reactions that can result in head congestion are foods, dust mite, animal dander, mold, and latex. This class also includes environmental triggers such as tobacco smoke, cosmetics (fragrances), or herbs/spices.

Nonallergic rhinitis. Also known as vasomotor rhinitis (VMR), this is a chronic condition that causes congestion, sneezing, and runny nose for no evident reason.

Acute and chronic sinusitis. Acute sinusitis affects the cavities surrounding the nasal passages by dilating and inflaming them, which hinders drainage and leads to mucus buildup. Besides the congestion, acute sinusitis also causes bulging and throbbing pain in the face, especially around the eyes as well as headaches. Chronic sinusitis, on the other hand, is the long-lasting version of acute sinusitis and affects a person for several weeks on end proving most treatment options ineffective.

Churg-Strauss Syndrome. This syndrome is characterized by the inflammation of blood vessels, leading to obstructed blood circulation to important organs and tissues, which can sometimes result in permanent damage. Nasal congestion is one of the many symptoms of this condition.

Substance abuse. Addiction to an illegal substance like cocaine, particular if they choose to snort it, can also result in a runny nose and congestion.

Nasal polyps. These are soft and benign growths that form inside the nasal passages. Nasal polyps typically grow due to chronic inflammation caused by conditions like asthma, allergies, infections, or autoimmune diseases. While they are painless and usually not life-threatening, nasal polyps can cause nasal congestion and breathing difficulties.

Some other potential nasal congestion causes may be thyroid conditions, stress, pregnancy, hormonal fluctuations, some medications like hypertension medicines, and overuse of nasal decongestants.

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Posted on May 5, 2023