That first whiff of autumn in the air, the smell of your baby’s head. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee, and the scent of your favorite cologne. All of these emotion-evoking, sensory delights are brought to you courtesy of your remarkable, impressive nose.
When you inhale through your two nostrils, air travels up your nasal passages, moves into the nasal cavity, passes through the trachea and ends in the lungs. Your nose warms, moistens and filters the air before it enters the lungs thanks to the olfactory epithelium — a tissue covered in mucus that lines the nasal cavity. The epithelium is also responsible for your ability to smell odors. It contains millions of olfactory receptors that bind with specific odor molecules to help you identify certain smells — one trillion different odors, in fact.
ENT physicians, or otolaryngologists, are specially trained in rhinology — disorders of the nose and sinuses. Let’s look at three of the most common disorders that they diagnose and treat.
Sinusitis is an inflammation and infection in the sinuses — the air-filled cavities within the face that branch off from the nasal cavity. Almost 30 million Americans, or 12.3 percent of all adults, are diagnosed with chronic sinusitis each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This makes it one of the most common health complaints in the United States.
Your ENT may use X-rays or a CT scan to diagnose sinus disease. If your infection is acute, treatment may involve antibiotics, decongestants, nasal steroid sprays, antihistamines and irrigations. But if your infection does not respond to medication and keeps coming back, your doctor might perform endoscopic sinus surgery (ESS).
ESS is frequently performed on an outpatient basis under local or general anesthesia. Your ENT surgeon inserts a thin fiber-optic tube into your nose that allows him to examine the sinus openings. He’s then able to remove the tissues that are obstructing your passages using state-of-the-art instruments and micro-telescopes. You experience no scarring, minimal swelling and only mild discomfort.
2) Deviated Septum
You may be able to blame your chronic sinusitis on the shape of your nasal cavity. The nasal septum is the vertical wall that divides your nasal cavity in half. “The ideal nasal septum is exactly midline, separating the left and right sides of the nose into passageways of equal size,” notes the American Academy of Otolaryngology— Head and Neck Surgery. However, 80 percent of all nasal septums are slightly off-center. When the septum is severely shifted away from the midline, the condition is called a “deviated septum.”
A deviated septum may cause:
• Blockage of one or both nostrils that causes difficulty breathing through the nose
• Nasal congestion, sometimes one-sided
• Frequent nosebleeds
• Repeated sinus infections
• Facial pain, headaches, postnasal drip
• Noisy breathing during sleep in infants and young children
Septoplasty is a surgical procedure performed entirely through the nostrils to correct a deviated septum. While it’s usually done to improve nasal breathing, it’s sometimes combined with sinus surgery. It may also be performed to allow your ENT physician to examine the inside of your nose before treating or removing tumors or polyps.
During the operation, your surgeon may remove badly deviated portions of the septum, or readjust and reinsert them into the nose. The 90-minute procedure is usually performed with a local or a general anesthetic on an outpatient basis. You can expect full relief from your chronic sinusitis if your deviated nasal septum was the sole cause.
3) Nasal Polyps
Nasal polyps are soft, non-cancerous growths on the lining of the nose or sinus caused by inflammation often due to allergies. Although small nasal polyps may not cause symptoms, larger growths or multiple polyps can cause frequent infections and breathing problems.
Medications are sometimes sufficient to shrink or eliminate the polyps, but surgical removal is often required along with medications to prevent more from developing.
Are you concerned that you or a loved one are experiencing infections or breathing difficulties related to a nose condition? Revere Health Ear, Nose and Throat providers have received extensive training in a wide range of nasal and sinus conditions and provide compassionate, individualized care for children and adults in eight Utah locations.