Breathing is something that should come naturally and easily. But when you suffer from a number of nasal, sinus or other respiratory problems, it can be a challenge to breathe. Knowing the cause of your breathing problems is the first start to fixing them.
Although in the past you might have simply had to put up with conditions such as allergies, today there are ways to treat them and potentially eliminate them for good.
If you can’t go outdoors in the spring or summer without suffering a sneezing attack or if you struggle to take a deep breath due to the high pollen counts, you most likely have allergies. Allergies occur when your immune system goes into overdrive after it is exposed to a seemingly innocent substance. For some people, it’s pollen. For others, it’s mold. Other people are allergic to pet dander. The most unlucky among us are allergic to a combination of allergens or what seems like every allergen.
In some cases, allergies can lead to chronic conditions such as sinusitis or they can be connected to conditions such as asthma. The good news is that you can treat your allergies with either prescribed or over-the-counter medicines. Some people also see great results from immunotherapy, which helps to build up your immune system’s tolerance to a particular allergen or allergens. Over time, it’s possible for your allergy symptoms to disappear completely.
When you have asthma, your airways constrict and become narrower, making it difficult for air to get through. Although asthma is often caused by certain allergens, not everyone with allergies has asthma. Additionally, the breathing difficulty can be caused by cold air, heartburn or GERD, and as a result of a cold.
To figure out the cause of a person’s asthma, a doctor may perform an allergy test to see if that person has any allergies. In the event of a severe asthma attack, a doctor might order an arterial blood gas test or test the function of the lungs.
Avoiding asthma triggers is one way to avoid the breathing problems associated with the condition. Many people also manage their asthma with control medications and use a rescue inhaler or device when needed to cut off an attack.
There are a few types of sinusitis, all of which can make it difficult to breathe. Acute sinusitis usually occurs right after a cold or starts out as a cold then turns into a longer-lasting infection. Acute cases last for less than four weeks and can often clear up on their own.
Chronic sinusitis lasts for much longer, at least 12 weeks. Some people with chronic sinusitis can experience symptoms for months or years on end. In the case of either condition, feelings of congestion are common. The congestion can make you feel as though you can’t take a deep breath.
Some people see an improvement in their sinusitis after it’s treated with antibiotics or after using saline to rinse out the nasal passages. Not everyone benefits from medication or other mild treatments. For some people, surgery to address problems with the sinuses is often the best course of treatment. Modern sinus surgeries are considerably less invasive than the surgeries from the past.
In some people, chronic sinus infections or allergies can lead to the development of sinus polyps, or small growths in the sinus cavities. Although polyps aren’t cancerous, they can lead to a number of problems for some people. The growths can interfere with breathing or make it difficult to speak.
What you can do about polyps depends on the extent of the problem. If your doctor notices them but also notes that they don’t seem to be causing you any issues, he might recommend taking a watch and wait approach. If the polyps are causing you some difficulties with breathing or are making your sinus or allergy symptoms worse, they can be shrunk with nasal sprays. In the worst cases, the best option is often to surgically remove the polyps to clear the sinus and nasal passages and help you get a deep breath.
Other Chronic Conditions
There are cases when trouble breathing is connected to or a sign of a considerably more serious chronic condition. For example, people who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes issues such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis, often find it difficult to breathe. Other lung diseases, such as pneumonia and lung cancer, also interfere with breathing. The sooner chronic conditions or serious conditions are diagnosed, the sooner you can get help for your breathing problems.
ABOUT DR. RUBINSTEIN
Dr. Rubinstein has nearly sixteen years of experience helping patients with sinus and breathing problems, including allergies and sinusitis, in the Hudson Valley. A board certified facial plastic surgeon and board certified otolaryngologist, he has extensive knowledge of laser procedures, facial plastic surgery, and nasal and sinus treatments, which allows him to improve aesthetics as well as functionality of the nose and facial features. Dr. Rubinstein received his board certifications through the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and the American Board of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. To learn more about how you can breathe easier, schedule an appointment with Dr. Rubinstein at the Hudson Valley Sinus Center by calling 845-562-6673.