The connection between enlarged turbinates and headaches is well-established. But when people get a sinus headache, they don’t often assume nasal turbinates are the culprits behind their pain.

In fact, most people don’t know what turbinates are! 

Are you trying to discover the source of your intermittent headaches? Or have you been told recently by your doctor that your turbinates are swollen? Either way, this quick guide to enlarged turbinates and headaches will help you find the answers you need. 

What are turbinates? 

Your turbinates (also known as conchae/concha) are essentially the humidifier of the nose; they help moisten, heat, and clean the air as it enters your body and begins its journey to your lungs. 

There are typically three types of turbinates, the superior turbinates (or “upper” turbinates), middle turbinates, and inferior turbinates (or “lower” turbinates). However, some individuals have an additional turbinate. This fourth turbinate is located above the superior turbinate and is called the supreme turbinate. 

For today’s purposes, we’ll mostly be concerned with the middle and inferior turbinates. 

Enlarged turbinates and headaches

What causes nasal turbinates to enlarge? And what causes turbinate-related headaches?  

Swelling of the turbinates is known as turbinate hypertrophy. Your turbinates become inflamed (and thus enlarged) when they come into frequent contact with allergens and other irritants or if you have a prolonged cold or sinus infection. Other causes include lying down for prolonged periods, a change in the weather, and the onset of a woman’s menstrual cycle.

If your turbinates become so large that they press against your septum (or you have mildly inflamed turbinates in conjunction with a deviated septum), then you may feel anything from pressure in your forehead to facial pain to a full-blown headache.

How do you tell if you have enlarged turbinates? 

In addition to headaches, facial pain, and forehead pressure, patients experiencing problems with enlarged turbinates may also feel:

  • The sensation of constantly having something in your nose or of having constant congestion
  • Rhinitis 
  • Issues breathing 
  • Increased snoring 
  • Dry mouth (from sleeping with your mouth open) 
  • Changes in your sense of smell 
  • Frequent nosebleeds

How do you fix enlarged turbinates? 

Medical management of your enlarged turbinates and headaches will vary according to the severity of your condition. That said, all patients struggling with enlarged turbinates and headaches should attempt to reduce the number of allergens and irritants in their home. 

Initial treatment typically includes the use of decongestants, allergy medication, and nasal sprays. The latter treatment should only be used temporarily, as regular use may create a “backlash” of congestion and ultimately worsen your condition. 

If these treatments do not result in relief, however, it may be wise to consider surgical procedures, including balloon sinuplasty. An ENT specialist typically performs this type of surgery. If you’ve never seen an ENT before, we recommend looking over these articles for guidance:  

Can balloon sinuplasty help my enlarged turbinates and headaches? 

Balloon sinuplasty is a minimally invasive procedure that can provide lasting relief from headaches caused by enlarged turbinates. The procedure, which takes place in-office in less than 20 minutes, uses the inflation of a small balloon to widen the nasal passage. Balloon sinuplasty has been very successful at restoring proper sinus drainage and improving patients’ ability to breathe freely. 

Dr. Napoleon G. Bequer of Sinus Solutions of South Florida is an ENT with over 30 years of experience. He specializes in balloon sinuplasty and has helped thousands of Florida residents find freedom from sinus-related pain. 

Ready to put your enlarged turbinates and headaches behind you? Check out our posts on what to expect after balloon sinuplasty and balloon sinuplasty: before and after. Afterward, set up an appointment with Dr. Bequer through our online portal or by calling us at (561) 790-7744 today!