Is breathing through one nostril bad? ( is it curable?)

For as long as i can rememberi have only been able to breathe through one nostril at a time it sometimes switches and this causes me to breathe loudly when and im not sure if its bad or normal but either way i want to fix this problem

Doctor Answers 8

Is breathing through one nostril bad? ( is it curable?)

It is normal to breathe predominately out of one side then the other in what is called "the nasal cycle".  Difficulty in breathing out of one side may be related to a deviated septum (most commonly), enlarged turbinates (sausage like appendages on the sides of the inside of your nose), weak cartilages, infection, inflammation, or growths.  An examination by a facial plastic surgeon is key to figure out what's going on and to establish an appropriate plan of care, which may involve surgery.  I wish you well!

New Orleans Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 42 reviews

Unable to breathe through one nostril

If this has been a longstanding issue, nasal obstruction only on one side could be related to a deviated nasal septum or narrowing of the nasal passage due to obstruction of the nasal valve region. However, there are numerous other causes of nasal obstruction, including both structural or anatomic factors as well inflammatory conditions that can cause the lining tissue of the nose to swell. Although more rare, growths within the nose (both benign and malignant) could also result in obstruction on one side. Because of the number of different possible causes, I would recommend that you seek out evaluation with a board certified facial plastic surgeon or Otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat physician). An in-office exam with possible nasal endoscopy will provide more information and your physician can provide more information on medical and/or surgical treatment options. Good luck!

Sachin S. Pawar, MD
Milwaukee Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 23 reviews

Breathing problems out of the nose

Breathing problems out of the nose can be caused by a deviated septum, turbinate hypertrophy, allergies, valve collapse,  a broken nose, and chronic sinusitis. Each one of these issues are treated differently with medications and surgery. It is best to seek out an ENT/ facial plastic surgeon to determine what is the cause of the nasal obstruction. For more information and diagrams, please see the link and video below

William Portuese, MD
Seattle Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 126 reviews

Not bad but probably won't get better without treatment.

Breathing only out of one nostril can be a sign of a deviated septum. Generally speaking nasal allergies would cause difficulty breathing out of both nostrils, but you can have nasal allergies on top of other problems such as a deviated septum. Other causes of unilateral nasal obstruction include nasal valve collapse and/or turbinate hypertrophy. The best advice is have a complete exam of your nose which may include a nasal endoscopy. Make sure you feel comfortable with the surgeon. They should explain exactly what contributes to your obstruction. Again, this may include several components or only a deviated septum. As far as the switching sides of your obstruction, this is part of the normal nasal cycle but once your nose is improved from a medical and possibly surgical standpoint you may not notice it. 

Daniel A. Barker, MD
Chattanooga Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 4 reviews



Elliot M. Heller, MD
New York Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 87 reviews

Nasal obstruction often requires septoplasty and turbinate resection.

Dear Ivan115115;

Most likely you have an internal blockage due to a deviated septum. (The septum is the vertical partition in the nose that separates both nasal passages.)  Often -- as a result of accidents -- one side of the septum shifts to the other, causing decreased breathing on the side where the septum has shifted. The septum is constructed of cartilage in the front part of the nasal interior and bone in the back. 

Also, enlargement of turbinates and other structures in the upper nose are allergy-sensitive and may be a factor. Even nasal polyps (non-cancerous growths) can contribute to a breathing block, particularly in people who are allergic and have sinus problems. You need to have a complete evaluation by a nasal surgery specialist. You might even require some x-ray or CT scan studies to best understand what is going on, but typically the examination itself would be very helpful.

You did not comment if your nose is crooked on the outside and if there are any other issues, but for sure you owe it to yourself to get this checked out. You have not indicated your age, but do you want to go through the rest of your life with this problem?

One thing you should understand is that Nature did intend for all of us to breathe through both nostrils, and should your condition be rather abnormal, you may run into problems with sinus infections and colds that take a long time to settle down.

Here are a few tips on finding the right specialist: The first and most important piece of homework should be seeking out a qualified, board-certified surgeon (in either plastic surgery or an otolaryngologist head & neck surgeon) one who is highly experienced and performs the procedure you want at least weekly and has done so for a decade. You should also be able to see on the surgeon’s website many hundreds of before and after pictures, showing the changes in the procedure you want.You should actually learn more about what your procedure involves, including:

  • How to prepare for surgery
  • Undergoing the actual surgery
  • How long your recovery time should be
  • What to tell others
  • How long the surgical rejuvenation should last
Toward that end, many good books about cosmetic surgery exist, including our own, Secrets of a Beverly Hills Cosmetic Surgeon.

Do a quick search of cosmetic plastic surgery books on or and you’ll find a wealth of information and handy coping tips.

Yet another note and reminder about the need for doing cosmetic surgery research before choosing a surgeon and going ahead with a procedure: Many, many nasal surgery patients who did not investigate their surgeon – and came away unhappy with the results – will spend months and years, reading about having the procedure done correctly and finding just the right surgeon to perform the revision surgery.

Best wishes,

Robert Kotler, MD, FACS

Robert Kotler, MD
Beverly Hills Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 83 reviews

Possible Septoplasty/Turbinate Reduction Candidate

Dear Ivan, An examination during consultation will allow the surgeon to properly diagnose your breathing issues. While there may be multiple issues leading to your unilateral breathing difficulties this complaint is typically associated with a deviated septum and hypertrophy of turbinates.  If you do present with these problems then they may be addressed with septoplasty/turbinate surgery allowing for a more balanced air flow. Best regards, Michael V. Elam, M.D.

Michael Elam, MD
Orange County Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 196 reviews

Breathing through one nostril

Breathing problems out of the nose can be caused by a deviated septum, turbinate hypertrophy, allergies, valve collapse, a broken nose, and chronic sinusitis. These can require different surgical techniques or medications to correct. Consult with 3 board certified plastic surgeons to understand your options.

Kris M. Reddy, MD, FACS
West Palm Beach Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 36 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.