A nasal valve collapse is a weakness or narrowing of the nasal valve. The nasal valve is already the narrowest part of the nasal airway. It is located in the middle to lower part of the nose. Its primary function is to limit airflow. Since the normal structure of the nasal valve is very narrow, any additional narrowing can further restrict airflow and can sometimes lead to the nasal airway becoming blocked entirely.

A nasal valve collapse is most commonly caused by nose surgery or by some sort of trauma to the nose.

There are two types of nasal valve collapse: internal and external. The nasal valve is divided into two portions.

Internal nasal valve collapse

The internal nasal valve is the better known of the two and is often just referred to as the nasal valve. This part of the nasal valve is responsible for the largest part of the nasal resistance and is located between the skin and the respiratory epithelium (a lining of the respiratory tract that serves to moisten and protect the airways).

External nasal valve collapse

The external nasal valve is made by the columella (the piece of skin and cartilage that divides your nostrils), the nasal floor, and the nasal rim.

The type of nasal valve collapse that you are diagnosed with depends on which part of the nasal valve has narrowed further. Nasal valve collapse can occur on one or both sides of the nose and affects its functionality. If it has only occurred on one side, you are more likely to be able to continue to breathe through your nose to some degree. If it has occurred on both sides, you are more likely to have your nasal airway blocked entirely.

The symptoms of nasal valve collapse are:

  • difficulty breathing through the nose
  • congestion
  • an obstruction of the nasal passage
  • nasal bleeding
  • crusting around the nostrils
  • snoring

If you experience any of these symptoms, particularly if you’ve experienced some trauma to the nose, it is important that you see your doctor for a proper diagnosis.

Nasal valve collapse is most commonly treated with surgery. However, those who want to avoid surgery can sometimes relieve their symptoms by using a nasal valve dilator. This is a device that manually widens the nasal valve. Some are worn externally and serve to widen the nose in the area of the nasal valve. Others are made of silicone and worn internally. Both types are usually worn overnight. However, the effectiveness of this treatment has not been adequately studied.

There are many different surgical techniques available. Your doctor will be able to help you determine which method is best for you. It will largely depend on your surgeon’s preferred method, your particular situation, and your individual nasal anatomy.

A commonly used procedure is to perform a cartilage graft. In this method, a piece of cartilage is taken from another area and used to attach the collapsed cartilage to the septum (the bone and cartilage that divides the nasal cavity in half).

Surgery to correct a nasal valve collapse typically costs somewhere around $4,500. However, since nasal valve collapse can negatively affect your health, the surgery is not considered cosmetic or elective and is therefore covered by most insurers.

Surgery recovery

It usually takes up to a week to recover fully from the surgery. Here are some do’s and don’ts to aid in your recovery.

  • DO attend your postoperative appointments to ensure you receive high-quality aftercare and confirmation that you are healing well.
  • DO follow the aftercare instructions you’ll be sent home with following your surgery. These may include irrigating your sinuses and sleeping in an elevated position.
  • DO call your doctor if you feel you are bleeding excessively.
  • DON’T blow your nose or engage in contact sports.
  • DON’T take aspirin or ibuprofen for the pain, as they are likely to prevent clotting and cause you to bleed excessively. Your doctor will prescribe pain medication that is safe to take.

The outlook for nasal valve collapse is generally good following surgery. The majority of people make a full recovery relatively quickly and find that their symptoms are greatly improved or completely alleviated. Most report an improvement in their overall quality of life. In some circumstances people may find that their symptoms do not improve. In these cases, it’s important to return to your doctor, as further surgery is often possible.