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At first glance, the nose seems like such a small, insignificant part of the body. It doesn’t pump blood, like the heart. It doesn’t think and reason, like the brain. It doesn’t aid in reproduction, nor does it digest food.

Yet the nose is its own perfect structure, and its components are just as important as those other vital organs for keeping each of us alive.

How Air Travels through the Nose

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The nose is made up of several bones and soft tissue. When we breathe in through our nose, our lungs are automatically engaged in what is called nasal resistance, the force that the lungs pull on to draw air into our bodies. For the lungs to work optimally, the nose and sinuses have to provide perfect resistance, which is enabled through their unique design.

The tip of the nose


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As air passes through the nose, it gets heated by finger-like projections called turbinates. Turbinates are bony structures that act as baffles, directing the passage of air along a specific path. The turbinates also act as radiators, adding warm, moist heat to the air as it passes. They also help increase the surface area of the nose to make


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The turbinates help control air flow by a predetermined pattern of swelling and constricting. The turbinates swell one side of the nose while the other side shrinks. This pattern is called the nasal cycle, and it
repeats itself every 2 or 3 hours, all day long. When the nasal cycle is working properly,


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After passing over the turbinates, air travels through the sinuses, which are open pockets or cavities that surround the nose. The sinuses are covered by membranes that respond to the constantly changing environment.

The sinuses clean and prepare the air so that it reaches


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The ethmoid sinuses are the key to nasal health. Just as all roads lead to Rome, mucus produced in any of the sinuses is eventually drained through or by the ethmoid sinuses. For example, the mucus produced in
the frontal sinuses drains through the ethmoid sinus by a connection called the frontal duct or frontal recess. The maxillary sinuses drain through an opening called the maxillary ostium. This drains into a funnel-like


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The frontal sinuses are located in the forehead over the eyes, right behind the eyebrows. They develop after birth around the age of 2, and they achieve full size by the time we are 12. Fully developed frontal sinuses came in a variety of sizes and are not symmetrical from one side of the face to the other. These sinuses are empty air sacks that not only aid in the filtering process but also act as shock absorbers,


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The maxillary, or cheek, sinuses are fairly well developed at birth, although they will become larger as the rest of the body continues to grow. The maxillary sinuses are housed in the cheekbones. The roof of the maxillary sinus forms the floor of the space, called the orbit, that houses the eyeball. The floor of the maxillary sinus forms part of the hard palate. Both baby and adult teeth in your upper jaw form


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The sphenoid sinuses are normally located behind the ethmoid, although in some cases the posterior ethmoid can wrap around the sphenoid. The sphenoid sinuses lie just below the brain and almost in the center of the head. The two sphenoid sinuses are separated by another bony wall or partition, called a septum (5). The sphenoid sinuses are barely visible at birth and begin to develop between the ages of 2 and 3 years. They continue to grow throughout childhood,

More Than You Ever Wanted to Know about Mucus

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The major function of the sinuses is to heat, humidify, and clean the air we breathe so that it arrives at the lungs ready for the rest of the body to use. The sinuses complete all of these tasks through the creation of mucus, the sticky substance we usually pay attention to only when we are sick and our bodies


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When an infectous agent enters our breathing system, the body automatically raises its temperature, and the consistency of the mucus changes: The pH changes, becoming more acidic, and the viscosity or thickness increases. This affects many bodily functions, possibly including a woman’s menstrual


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The cavities of the sinuses are lined with mucous membranes, or tissues, that look like the inside of your mouth. These membranes are smooth and shiny and made up of various distinct types of cells. First, a layer of goblet cells produce the mucus through tiny tubes, forming the mucous blanket. These goblet cells are interspersed between hair-like cells called ciliated columnar cells, which move the mucus across


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The ciliated cells move the mucus over the sinus membranes in a specific direction, so that the mucous blanket with its trapped particles can be
excreted. These cells each contain between 50 and 200 tiny microscopic hairs called cilia, which move at an astounding rate of close to 800 times a minute. These


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The mucus, now carrying the trapped dirt and other unwanted particles, leaves the nose and is moved into the nasopharynx, the passageway located above the soft part of the roof of the mouth, or the soft palate. The nasopharynx connects the ears and nose to the throat. The bottom of the nasal cavity itself is formed by the roof

The Ear

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As I already noted, the ear is connected to the sinuses through the eu - stachian tube. When the sinuses are inflamed, the eustachian tubes also become inflamed. Infections in the sinuses can pass into the ears through these tubes. Primary ear problems - such as recurrent ear infections, benign tumors, pain, noise, tinnitus, and dizziness - may be caused by sinus and nasal problems

The Nose-Stomach Connection

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After passing through the nasopharynx, mucus is swallowed, dropping into the throat (pharynx) and behind the voice box through the esophagus and finally into the stomach (1). The acids and enzymes in the stomach kill bacteria, viruses, and molds and break up the mucus without problems. Finally, the mucus and its dirt particles pass through the digestive tract, get destroyed, and are finally excreted.

Yet beyond

Our Bodies, Our Nose

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Beyond mere breathing and mucus production, the nose is integrally connected to the functioning of the rest of the body. One important factor is our sense of smell. The cribriform plate lies at the top of the inside of the nose, which is the area under the brain near the middle, superior,

The Nose and Lungs

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The nose is the upper most structure of the respiratory system and can be thought of as the portal to the lungs. Air can enter the body only through the nose or the mouth. In a healthy person, the majority of air enters through the nose (except in times of exertion or distress). Newborn babies breathe exclusively through the nose. If their nose is partially obstructed, they will not be able to feed well and will have difficulty breathing. If the nose


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Many pregnant women experience swelling. While they might notice that their trunk, limbs, and face swell, they might not realize that when their outside swells their inside swells as well. This includes the inside of

their nose and sinus membranes. Approximately 30 percent of pregnant women report

Sinuses and the Brain

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The brain relies on the sinuses in various ways as well. Aside from providing clean, oxygen-rich air to the brain via the bloodstream, the sinuses aid the brain in several autonomic nervous system responses. For instance, we know that there is a nasopulmonary reflex that causes a drop in oxygen saturation levels throughout

Identifying a Problem

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Now that you understand how your entire body is connected to your nose, you can imagine what a healthy respiratory system feels like. When everything is working properly, you should feel alert most of the time. Air should flow freely through your nose to your lungs and you should be able to breathe easily. Mucus should not obstruct your nose, affect your throat, or cause your stomach to act up. At night, you should be able to sleep soundly, unaffected

This initial hit of inflammation would probably lead you to believe that you had come down with a simple cold.