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Can surgery help alleviate allergies?

Posted on May. 9, 2019 ( comments)

We’re in the thick of spring — and there’s cottonwood and pollen everywhere to prove it.

In the Pacific Northwest, tree pollen is most prevalent from February to April, grass pollen from May to July, then weed pollen in August and September.

Treating seasonal allergies involves staying inside when pollen is high, taking over-the-counter or prescription medication as needed and having allergy testing done if your allergies are severe.

But if your allergies interfere with daily life and none of these remedies help, have you ever wondered if surgery was an option?

Is it allergies or chronic sinusitis?

What may seem like allergies might actually be chronic sinusitis. Allergies can make chronic sinusitis worse and affect breathing and draining in the sinuses.

Allergies cause runny nose, itchy eyes and congestion, while chronic sinusitis sufferers have trouble breathing and congestion.

If your allergies have contributed to sinusitis, a procedure like a balloon sinusplasty may provide relief. It opens up the sinus passage so that any fluid in your sinuses can properly drain. It reduces symptoms such as pressure behind the eyes, pain in the teeth and headaches.

A CT scan of the sinuses can tell your doctor whether there’s a physical obstruction to breathing or sinus drainage. Sinus polyps, mucus cysts, and septal deformities become visible with this type of imaging exam. CT scan is the “gold standard” for evaluation of sinus problems.

Surgical treatment of a deviated septum (septoplasty) and other nasal deformities (rhinoplasty) using modern techniques can significantly improve breathing, as well as endoscopic sinus surgery.

Septoplasty can treat a deviated septum. The septum divides the two nasal passages; a deviated septum isn’t fully centered and so the passageway gets blocked. It can cause swelling, breathing problems and congestion. Septoplasty can reduce swelling and breathing difficulties.

Rhinoplasty won’t cure allergies but can improve the function of your nose so you can breathe easier. Rhinoplasty can also improve the form of your nose, such as a hump on the bridge of the nose. But after this surgery you may feel congested or stuffy, so it’s best to get your allergy symptoms under control beforehand, or schedule the surgery during non-peak pollen season.

How do you know if surgery is the right choice?

Surgery may not get rid of your allergies, but it can fix other problems with your nose and nasal passages to provide relief. You should see an otorhinolaryngologist, also known as an ENT (ear, nose and throat) doctor, to determine the best option.

ENT doctors provide treatment for illnesses of the ears, nose throat and related areas, but not food or skin allergies. Learn more about the conditions ENTs treat.

Learn more about allergy treatment at MultiCare

Find an ENT

About The Author

Christine Puig, MD
Christine Puig, MD, is an ear, nose and throat doctor and facial plastic and reconstructive surgery specialist. Dr. Puig works at MultiCare ENT locations in Puyallup and Auburn. Read Dr. Puig’s provider profile. More stories by this author
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