What is the Function of Turbinates?

Turbinates are shelf-like structures on the inside of the nose that contain bone and are covered by a lining of mucous. They are responsible for purifying the air that flows through the nose, adding warm, moist heat to the air that goes in with every breath. When the turbinates become enlarged, however, the condition can lead to congestion, snoring, nosebleeds, sinusitis, and trouble breathing. 

Causes of Enlarged Turbinates

  • Allergies
  • A persistent cold
  • Sinus infections 
  • Congenital conditions
  • Some medications
  • Allergic rhinitis
  • Non-allergic rhinitis
  • Chronic rhinosinusitis
  • Lying down
  • Aging
  • Certain foods
  • Hormones 
  • Irritants in the environment (e.g., cigarette smoke)
  • Overuse of decongestant nasal sprays 

“No-rush appointment. Doctor was very attentive and personable. Highly recommend her.” 

Todd R.

Treatment Options for Enlarged Turbinates

Medical Treatment

Often, the first course of action to address enlarged turbinates is to reduce swelling with medication. This can include decongestants, antihistamines, and nasal steroids. 

Radiofrequency Ablation 

In this procedure, a tiny probe is positioned between the inner turbinate bone and the outer mucosal lining. From this probe, low-power radiofrequency energy is applied to reduce swelling of the turbinate mucosa and decrease the congested lining.


In this procedure, heat is used to shrink the mucosal lining back to its normal size. A heated probe is positioned within the nose, where the heat causes some turbinate blood vessels to clot and close off. These changes in blood flow reduce the tissue.  

Surgical Treatment

If a patient’s enlarged turbinates aren’t responding to medications and other procedures, surgery may be the best option. A turbinectomy removes part of the turbinates, while a turbinoplasty makes changes to the turbinates without removing any part of them. 

Why Choose Dr. Reitzen?

Shari Reitzen, MD is a female facial plastic surgeon performing both functional and cosmetic surgery. She is an ENT doctor as well as a double board-certified surgeon in plastic and reconstructive surgery.  

With a focus on restoring optimal function, Dr. Reitzen always puts her patients first and closely listens to their symptoms to determine the ideal method of treatment. She believes that patients should be able to breathe without issue, and her goal is to help them regain function and breathe more easily.


Does insurance cover surgery for enlarged turbinates?

Do enlarged turbinates ever go away on their own?

Does insurance cover surgery for enlarged turbinates?

For the majority of enlarged turbinate cases in which medications are not having success, health insurance covers the cost of surgery. However, every insurance carrier is different, so you should contact your insurance company to double-check.

Do enlarged turbinates ever go away on their own?

This answer varies from patient to patient. For many, enlarged turbinates return to their normal size once the flare-up has passed. For others, especially those with chronic sinusitis, the enlarged turbinates can be permanent. It’s important to have an evaluation to find out if treatment is needed for enlarged turbinates.

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