Turbinate reductions are performed to treat sleep apnea can in rare cases cause “empty-nose syndrome,” a devastating condition for sufferers, reports San Diego Reader.

“This is worse than death,” says Gerlach, who has undergone nearly a dozen subsequent procedures in search of relief following the turbinate operation he says gave him empty-nose syndrome.

Gerlach’s first surgery did nothing to alleviate his obstructive sleep apnea. He says his sleep troubles are worse than ever. Sleep clinics across San Diego, where he frequently undergoes studies, have become his homes away from home.

Put in lay terms, obstructive sleep apnea happens when tissue blocks the respiratory system, encumbering normal sleep. Nasal turbinates are often blamed for such obstructions; so it’s only natural that doctors have, for years, been surgically reducing turbinate tissue.