One of the most important organs in the human body is the nose. On top of enabling a person’s sense of smell, it is also a crucial element of the respiratory system. Air goes through a human’s nasal passages, where it’s warmed up, humidified, and filtered of foreign particles before it goes into the lungs.
Also key to the human body’s olfactory and respiratory functions are its paranasal sinuses, or the four air-filled spaces surrounding the nasal cavity. These sinuses are lined with mucosa, or cells that create mucus to stop the nose from drying out. They’re also thought to increase a human’s olfactory area, reduce the weight of the human skull, and improve the sound resonance of the human voice.
Knowing how valuable your nose and paranasal sinuses are to your daily life, you shouldn’t neglect health problems related to these. Ignoring discomfort in your nose or sinus areas, or not responding quickly enough when it’s hard to breathe, could further jeopardise your health.
To help you care for your nose and paranasal sinuses — and, as a result, protect you from more serious illnesses — here’s a list of common nose and sinus disorders and their symptoms, as well as signs that you should seek more intensive treatment from your doctor.
Sinusitis is a sinus condition that concerns the swelling or inflammation of the tissue lining the paranasal sinuses. It’s commonly caused by changes in the surrounding temperature or air pressure, allergies, or activities like smoking cigarettes, swimming, and diving. It can also be the byproduct of a bacterial or viral infection that causes swelling in the sinuses.
Symptoms of sinusitis include pain or uncomfortable pressure around the nose, forehead, or cheek area, nasal congestion, headaches, bad breath, coughing, and fever. Most cases of sinusitis are mild and can be relieved with decongestants, saline nasal sprays, or over-the-counter pain medication.
But if none of these medicines can relieve the pain and swelling after a few days, or if you’ve developed nasal polyps or little growths on the lining of your sinuses, you may need to seek further treatment from a doctor. Depending on their diagnosis, your doctor may give you a prescription for stronger medicines like antibiotics or nasal corticosteroids.
Another fairly common condition that affects the olfactory and respiratory systems is allergic rhinitis, also called hay fever. This is when allergens like dust mites, pet dander, pollen, and mould trigger the release of histamine and incite inflammation of the membranes lining your nose.
The most recognisable symptoms of allergic rhinitis as they pertain to the nose and sinuses are sneezing, nasal stuffiness, and itching around the nose area. Though allergic rhinitis is easily treated with antihistamines and nasal sprays, you should see a doctor if your symptoms are getting worse or if your allergies have exacerbated a comorbidity like asthma.
Epistaxis is the medical term for nosebleeds. It occurs when any of the blood vessels in the lining of the nose suddenly bursts. Nosebleeds can be a consequence of allergies, injuries, or infections, but they may also be indicative of more serious conditions like damage to the sphenopalatine artery (SPA).
First aid for epistaxis includes pinching the soft part of one’s nose and applying a cold compress to the area continuously for fifteen minutes. Mild nosebleeds can be stopped with this treatment, but frequent and heavy nosebleeds should be looked at immediately by your physician.
Cerebrospinal Fluid Leaks
Cerebrospinal fluid leaking, or encephaloceles, is a condition in which clear fluid flows from a person’s nostril. It may be attributed to factors like trauma or extraordinary intracranial pressure, and it may also incite complications like pneumocephalus (the presence of air in the brain) or meningitis (infection of the protective membranes around the brain and spinal cord).
A cerebrospinal fluid leak (CSF) may go away after bed rest and proper elevation of the head. But if your CSF comes with worsening headaches, or if you’re experiencing tinnitus or drainage from your ears, seek further medical attention.
Anosmia is a disorder that involves either the partial loss or the full loss of one’s sense of smell and sense of taste. Sometimes, it is a result of nasal congestion from the common cold or flu; it can also be a byproduct of nasal polyps or tumours. In recent times, it’s become widely recognised as one of the telltale symptoms of COVID-19.
The loss of your sense of smell can greatly affect your appetite and nutrition, and it may also put you in danger of food poisoning due to an impaired ability to detect spoilage in food. If your anosmia persists even when your nasal congestion has cleared, be sure to consult a doctor and to test for diseases like SARS-CoV-2.
Don’t be remiss in getting the appropriate medical intervention for any of these nose or sinus disorders. With timely care, you’ll be able to avoid further complications and safeguard your overall health.