That’s what the ENT doctor told me on Tuesday.
One of the reasons for my visit (not the primary reason, but I won’t go into that right now) is that I can’t seem to get enough air through my nasal valves. I’ve been using Flonase for quite awhile now, so I shouldn’t be congested; yet, I continually feel like I can’t breathe through my nose. So the doc observed me as I inhaled… and then stuck a thin metal rod up my right nostril, pulled it outward, and asked “is that better?”
Diagnosis: External Nasal Vestibular Stenosis — i.e., my already skinny nostrils collapse inwardly when I inhale through my nose, creating an obstructed airway. Apparently, this is something that can happen with age. Great. I’m only 52. By the time I’m 82, will I need to be on a ventilator?
There actually is a surgical fix for this condition. It involves taking cartilage from the ear and creating “spreader grafts,” which act as wedges between the septum and the upper lateral cartilages, thereby expanding the internal area of the valve. Sounds great, right? A piece of my ear shoved up and sewn into each nostril? Except that the procedure is rhinoplasty and it permanently alters one’s appearance. Yikes.
The less invasive and certainly less permanent treatment involves the use of either Breathe Right strips or nose cones to open up the nasal valves. Since I’m self-employed and mostly work at home, I suppose this is the best approach for now. I’ll just have to remember to peel off the strip or pull out the cones before heading out to buy groceries.
I ordered a pair of nose cones a few days ago. It will be interesting to see if they help, if I can tolerate them, and (assuming that I — because I will — forget to remove them before leaving the house) what kind of gawking they generate while I’m lifting weights at the gym or standing in line at the post office.