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The Nose

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What is the Nose?

One of the most visible organs on the front of your face is the nose. Anatomically, a nose is a vertebrate respiratory organ that covers two nostrils in humans. Nostrils are those two holes visible in the front of the nose, responsible for reception and expulsion of air for respiration purposes. A septum proceeds from deep within the nose near the skull where it's made of thin bony pieces.

There are also hairs in the nose that function to prevent the airborne particles from proceeding into the lungs. Within and behind the nose we find para-nasal sinuses and mucus. As soon as air passes through the pharynx behind the nasal cavity, and proceeds to the entire respiratory system.

Not only does the nose help us breathe, but identifying which perfume smell better than the other is also done best by the nose. A nose helps us distinguish scents that are good and which ones are bad. Although it is not a tasting organ, to a certain extent a nose do contribute to our sense of taste.

Most of us take our sense of smell for granted, because it is not necessary for our survival the way our other senses are... However we still rely on it more than you would probably think.

Smell affects many aspects of life such as attraction, memories, and emotions. Our sense of smell also adds a richness to our lives that we aren't always conscious of, but as soon as it's taken away it dramatically changes our quality of life ask an anosmic (someone who has lost some or all of their sense of smell). Anosmics suffer from depression and their quality of life is severely affected.

Smell is one of the chemical senses and with these sense we sample our environment for information. We are continuously testing the quality of the air we breathe, like for potential dangers such as smoke from fires, or food and flowers.

Although it looks little, a nose is a complicated gateway to the respiratory system that most people find difficult to keep healthy. Colds, hayfever, flu, nasal obstructions, sinusitis and sinus infections are evident to the complexity of the nose.

About 139 million Americans suffer some form of sinus disorder each year. For the purpose of this site, the following nasal disorders will be discussed:

Parts of the Nose...

The nasal cavity

There is a huge air filled space behind the nose in the middle of the face called nasal cavity that connects with the back of the throat. The nasal cavity is only separated from the inside of your mouth by the palate (the roof of the mouth).

The nasal bone just below the eyes, the maxilla and ethmoid bones circle the nasal cavity. Underneath, the nasal cavity is separated by the palate from the upper mouth. The nose itself covers the front of the nasal cavity, while its back connects straight to the pharynx.

Right on the nasal cavity, there small openings (ostia) that connects to the para-nasal sinuses. When these openings become blocked, mucus drainage is delayed leading to the inflammation of the sinus lining.

On its frontal part, the nasal cavity is divided into two spheres by a septum (a flabby cartilage wall). A septum proceeds from deep within the nose near the skull where it's made of thin bone pieces. There is mucus as well as hair-like structures called cilia on the surface of the nasal cavity that catch and remove germs and dirt from the inhaled air, before it enters the respiratory system.

The most dangerous disease that affects (but rarely does) the nasal cavity is nasal cavity cancer.

Para-nasal sinuses

The skull is one of the heaviest bones in mankind. One may wonder why we are still able to carry it though. The secret is that on its frontal part it has air-filled pockets (sinuses) that lighten the weight of the skull and give resonance to the voice. These sinuses also help filter, moisten and warm the air we inhale before it proceeds to the lungs.

There are four pairs of these air-filled cavities...
  • Frontal sinuses
  • Ethmoid sinuses
  • Maxillary sinuses
  • Sphenoid sinuses

When the ostia (small tubes attached to the nasal passages for free exchange of mucus and air) become blocked or irritated due to bacteria, virus or other irritants. This infected mucus damages the sinus membrane. Inflammation of these sinuses is called sinusitis. Sinusitis is a severe condition of inflamed sinuses that attacks either acutely, chronically or recurrently.

How do we breathe?

Breathing is more that just taking air in and letting air out... it's a process. When air is inhaled through the nostrils, the air travels into the nasal cavity via the nasal passages. There are quite a lot of ups and downs in the nasal cavity and para-nasal sinuses to ensure that air is moist, clean and warm before it passes to the lungs via the trachea (windpipe).

There is a soft thin layer of tissue on the inside of our nose. This layer called mucous membrane produces mucus helpful in trapping dust, germs and other unwanted particles like pollen that may irritate your lungs if inhaled. When anything unwanted gets trapped on the mucous membrane you may sneeze. Sneezing only alerts you that unwanted particles got trapped.

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