The nose is the protuberance on the center of the face that is responsible for the body’s ability to breathe, smell and, to a certain extent, taste. It also serves as a filter that cleans and purifies the air as it enters the body. It has the natural ability to warm the air if it is cold and make it humid if it is dry before it reaches the lungs. The nose has many different parts that allow it to fulfill its functions and these include the following:
Septum – Made of bone and cartilage, the septum divides the interior of the nose into two passageways where air passes through.
Nasal cavity – Located behind the nostrils, this serves as the main passageway of purified air into the lungs. The nasal cavity is composed of three regions: (a) the vestibule region, which refers to the external area at the opening of the nose, (b) the olfactory region, located at the top and is filled with cilia (microscopic hair) and nerves that transmit smell signals to the brain, and (c) the respiratory region that filters the air before it reaches the lungs.
Mucous membranes – These are thin tissues that line the interior of the nasal cavity, which main function is to clean the air that enters the nose. The mucosal lining contains the cilia that trap harmful bacteria and allergens to prevent them from entering the lungs. Trapped particles are continuously moved back towards the end of the nasal cavity for eventual expulsion through sneezing or coughing.
Turbinates – These are curved and bony fingerlike structures that line the nasal walls on the sides of the nose. Each side has three turbinates. The spaces in between the turbinates are called meatuses, which function is to condition the inhaled air as it passes through the nasal cavity.
Sinuses - The nose has 4 sinus cavities on each side. These are: (1) maxillary sinuses, which are found in the cheekbones, (2) frontal sinuses, which lie in the middle of the eyebrows, (3) ethmoid sinuses, which are located in between the eyes and the top of the nose; and (4) the sphenoid sinuses, which are located behind the nasal cavity. These air-filled chambers are lined with mucous membranes that continuously drain mucus into the nasal cavity.
Common Nose Problems/Conditions
Nasal congestion – This is the most common nose-related problem characterized by the inflammation of the nasal passages due to allergies and flu, among others.
Nose bleeding (epistaxis) – This can be as simple as a bleeding nose, which are common in young children but may also be a symptom of a more serious disorder. Ordinary nosebleeds can be caused by a nose injury, nasal congestion, and allergies.
Deviated septum - A condition characterized by misaligned or crooked nasal septum either due to injury or congenital deformity. Its symptoms include nosebleeds, nasal congestion on one side of the nose, and headaches.
Nasal polyps – These are non-cancerous growth in the nose or sinuses that are usually caused by chronic inflammation.
Common Nose Treatments/Procedures
Medications - Nasal congestion caused by allergies usually results in a runny nose (rhinitis). Taking anti-allergens or antihistamines, which stop the inflammation and reduce the production of mucus in nasal passages, may prevent an allergic reaction.
Cauterization of blood vessels in the nose – This is considered for severe nose bleeding that does not respond to home remedies and medications.
Surgery – Surgical intervention is considered in certain cases of deviated septum, particularly if medication fails to address the condition.