Conditions of the Nose
When you deal with nasal and sinus issues, it can be frustrating when the problems persist. Often, if you experience a chronic runny nose, cough, itchy eyes or swollen sinuses, you’ll be referred to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist. At Santa Cruz Ear, Nose and Throat Medical Group, we have a staff of professionals proficient in sinus and nasal health and ready to help you treat your conditions.
To understand how to treat particular conditions, it’s important to understand their cause and symptoms.
Nose and throat irritation, usually accompanied by stuffy or runny nose, coughing, itchy eyes and swollen sinuses, is called rhinitis. This condition can be allergy or non-allergy related. Rhinitis can also be temporary or chronic, and treatments are specified for both types.
One of the functions of the nose is to filter the air we breathe. When nasal tissue encounters an allergen, it reacts by releasing histamine that causes inflammation that becomes rhinitis.
Allergic rhinitis is also called hay fever. It is a seasonal condition caused by pollen from trees, grasses and plants. When a person is allergic to pollen, breathing it in causes an immune reaction in sinus tissue, which swells and releases histamine. (1) This compound is released by the body to help cells fight invading substances, which results in the watery eyes and running nose associated with hay fever.
Fungi are plantlike cells that have no chlorophyll. They survive by decomposing and absorbing dead organic material. Fungal infections occur when fungus break down living tissue in lieu of dead cells. People get fungal infections in several parts of the body.
Fungal sinusitis can be one of the more serious conditions of the sinuses. (2) Fungi thrive in dark, damp conditions because they do not need light, so sinuses are prime areas to enter the body and start an infection. People with compromised immune systems are more susceptible to fungal infection than those with normal immunity, but anyone can get a fungal infection.
There are four types of fungal sinusitis:
- Mycetoma fungal sinusitis
- Allergic fungal sinusitis
- Chronic indolent sinusitis
- Fulminant sinusitis
A commonly encountered infection is allergic fungal sinusitis, in which the fungus not only grows in the sinus, but also causes an allergic response from the tissue. The patient’s immune system is usually normal and produces the allergic reaction. White blood cells are sent to attack the fungus, and often a buildup of material in the sinuses requires surgery.
Loss of Smell
There are several reasons people lose some of all of their sense of smell. These include injury and infection (the most likely causes) as well as less frequent conditions like tumors. As people get older, some smell receptors on the olfactory areas of the nose cease to function People under the age of 60 generally do not lose any sense of smell due to the aging of smell receptors. Younger individuals losing smell probably have had infections like sinusitis and rhinitis.
Smell can be affected by smoking or long exposure to strong chemicals. This is one reason all noxious and volatile organic chemicals require wearing the appropriate mask.
Polyps, abnormal growths that can be benign or pre-cancerous, can grow in the nose or sinuses. Removing polyps may or may not restore smell.
Treatments for loss of smell range from normal prescription of allergy medicines to surgery. An ENT screens carefully for the culprits (there can easily be more than one) and recommends the best course of treatment. The restoration of smell is not always successful, but complete inability to smell (anosmia) is rare. (3)
ENTs find that recurring nasal and sinus infections can degrade the sense of smell. Patients should not let infections like rhinitis (hay fever) linger. Be sure to see an ENT as soon as possible for treatment of these infections because more serious conditions can otherwise result.
The septum is the cartilage and bone segment that separates the inside of the nose in half. A deviation means the septum leans toward the right or left, or the septum is crooked. A deviated septum is very common and usually does not affect breathing. However, there are cases where the deviation causes problems.
A severely deviated septum can restrict air flow, or cause a drying effect in the tissue of one side of the nasal cavity. Tissue can crack and bleed as a result.
Conditions like rhinitis and sinusitis can be aggravated by a deviated septum. One nostril can become clogged and remain this way for the duration of the attack of hay fever, which causes the other nostril to be severely irritated. ENTs examine the patient’s overall medical condition and history (including allergy history) in order to recommend treatments for a deviated septum. Correction of the septum requires surgery. (4)
If you’re experiencing constant nasal and sinus problems, call our office and schedule an appointment with one of our professionals to help find the right cause and treatment for your condition!