The nasal mucosa is a very sensitive and delicate tissue. Even small irritations to the nasal mucosa can cause significant discomfort. When people refer to sores within their noses, they usually refer to some bump or soreness at a single spot inside the nose. However, nasal sores could refer to a variety of changes in the nasal mucosa, such as cysts, polyps, abscesses, ulcers and tumors.
Types of Nasal Sores
The nasal mucosa is very similar to the mucosa that lines the inner airways. However, the nasal mucosa also contains a bunch of thick hairs (nasal hairs) that are not present in the lower respiratory tract. Due to the sensitive nature of the nasal mucosa, it gets injured very easily. A variety of different lesions can affect the mucosal lining of the nose. Examples include abnormal growths, infections, and buildup of pus and other fluids.
Different types of sores form in the nasal mucosa depending on the type of lesion that affects the mucosal lining. The following are some of the types of lesions that can result in formation of nasal sores:
- Inflammatory: Inflammation of the nasal mucosa is one of the most common causes of nasal sores. Inflammation is a type of defense mechanism that allows the body to limit the spread of tissue damage. The cardinal features of inflammation are pain, heat, redness and swelling. When inflammation is limited to a specific focal point, the swelling may cause formation of a nasal sore.
- Abscess: Abscess is also known as a boil. Abscesses are associated with infections, and form when pus collects at the site of infection.
- Scabs: Scabs refer to the formation of protective blood clots in areas where bleeding occurs. Scab formation helps in limiting the extent of bleeding.
- Ulcers: Ulcers refer to sores that are open. They form upon erosion of a surface tissue or lining.
- Polyps: Polyps refer to abnormal surface growths. These are usually benign in nature.
- Tumors: Tumors refer to abnormal tissue growths that can either be benign or malignant. Benign tumors are not cancerous. However, malignant tumors are cancerous and spread to other parts of the body.
Read more on nasal polyps.
Causes of Nasal Sores
The different types of nasal sores can be caused by a variety of different factors.
Like other mucosal linings in the body, the nasal mucosa is normally kept wet through mucus secretions. In dry environments and weather conditions, the nasal mucosa may become dry as it gets exposed to dry air. Drying up of the nasal mucus results in the formation of nasal crusts, which can make the nasal mucosa very sore. If the nasal crusts become very hard (also referred to as boogers), then the nasal mucosa may also get injured. Dryness can also aggravate other underlying nasal conditions.
When we breathe outside air, we also inhale a lot of environmental dust. This dust is normally trapped by the mucus that lines the nasal mucosa. The mucus is then either swallowed, or it forms dried crusts that we pick out from the nose. In extremely dusty environments, the whole nasal lining could become coated with dust. Dust can also injure the nasal mucosa and elicit an inflammatory reaction. This is especially the case with some inorganic and organic dust particles released in some industrial settings. In such environments, appropriate face masks should be used.
Nose picking is a common activity that we all indulge in at some time or the other. However, rough and frequent nose picking with fingernails can cause injury to the nasal mucosa and lead to the formation of nasal sores. Folliculitis and other infections could also occur if the bacteria from the fingernails infect the nasal mucosa. For these reasons, nose picking should be avoided, especially with dirty fingernails.
Allergy refers to an abnormal immune reaction of the body to a substance that is normally harmless. Allergic rhinitis is a common allergic condition that causes inflammation of the nasal mucosa. Rhinitis is characterized by runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion, and postnasal drip. Repeatedly wiping the nose in such a condition further aggravates the inflammation. When it happens frequently, allergic rhinitis can also lead to nasal infections.
Nasal infections are commonly caused by viruses and bacteria. Infections can result in the formation of different types of nasal sores, including abscesses and cysts. Common cold is an example of a very common viral infection that results in significant inflammation of the nasal mucosa. Common cold is characterized by a runny or congested nose, sneezing, and inflammation of the nasal mucosa and upper airways.
Folliculitis refers to an infection of the hair follicles. One of the most common causes of folliculitis is the bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus. Folliculitis of nasal hairs can make the nasal mucosa tender and painful. Pus may also form.
Cold sores refer to chronic infections caused by the herpes simplex virus (commonly abbreviated as HSV). Cold sores usually form around the oral cavity. However, cold sores can also occur in the nose. Fever, flu, common cold and stress can cause the condition to flare up intermittently.
Nasal sores can also arise due to the use of certain drugs that cause an increase in mucus production, nasal inflammation, and drying of the nasal mucosa. For example, nasal sprays that are used to treat nasal congestion can cause nasal sores due to inflammation of the nasal mucosa. In addition, nasal sprays can also introduce pathogenic bacteria into the nasal cavity or cause direct injury to the nasal mucosa.
Autoimmune disorders can cause inflammation and soreness of the nasal mucosa when the immune system targets this tissue. Sarcoidosis is an example of an immune condition in which tissues masses (referred to as granulomas) form at the sites of inflammation.
Trauma to the nose can lead to rupture of blood vessels in the region. This results in nose bleeds (technically referred to as epistaxis). Blood clots form at the sites of injury as part of the body’s mechanism to shut off blood leaks from ruptured blood vessels. Nose bleeds can also be caused by dry environments, high blood pressure and vigorous nose picking.
Treatment for Nasal Sores
The treatment for nasal sores depends on the type and cause of the nasal sore. For example, infectious causes of nasal sores are treated with antibiotics, inflammatory causes are treated with corticosteroids, allergic causes are treated with antihistamines, and nasal congestion is treated with decongestants. The following measures may help in maintaining a healthy nasal mucosa and preventing the occurrence of nasal sores:
- In case of dry nose, saline nasal spray can be used regularly to keep the nasal mucosa moist. Room humidifiers and steam inhalation may also help in moisturizing the nasal mucosa.
- Nose picking should be avoided, especially with dirty fingernails or if one has the habit of biting fingernails.
- Do not use too much force while blowing out mucus from the nose.