Nose Problems – Symptoms and Causes of Nasal Disorders

Whether it is the sniffles or sneezing, every person experiences nose-related symptoms on a regular basis. Be it the common cold or the flu, the nasal symptoms can be quite uncomfortable. These are acute conditions and the nose symptoms subside once the infection resolves. However, for people with chronic conditions like allergic rhinitis (hay fever), relief is usually short lived.

Most of the time we consider the nose for its aesthetic features when there are no nasal symptoms. It is the most prominent protrusion and being centrally located means that it is one of the main focus on the face. However, the nose also plays a prominent role in breathing and smelling.

Air that is inhaled through the nostrils is filtered by the tiny hairs in the nasal cavity. Mucus in the nose traps any dust particles and microbes. The air is also warmed and humidified within the nasal cavity before it passes down the airway. Specialized receptors located in the nasal cavity can detect chemicals in the air which is perceived as the sense of smell.

Therefore nose problems can affect air flow into and out of the body, although the mouth is an alternative channel. Nose problems may also impact on smell and also affect the voice quality.

Symptoms of Nose Problems

Nasal Congestion

One of the most common nasal problems is a blocked nose (nasal congestion). Mucus is produced in moderate amounts throughout the day. However, mucus production increases significantly in many different types of nasal conditions. More mucus means nasal congestion if it cannot drain rapidly.


Sneezing is another common symptoms in many nasal conditions. It may not always be present in every nose problem. The irritation in the nose may trigger sneezing. However, this is not always due to an irritant. Instead inflammation of the nasal lining may stimulate nasal sneeze receptors even without any irritant present. Nasal congestion can also stimulate sneezing.

Runny Nose

Small amounts of nasal mucus produced under normal circumstances is usually unnoticed. However, when excessive this mucus will drain through the nose and presents as a runny nose. The mucus may vary in consistency but the mucus is usually thin and watery in a runny nose.

It can also vary in color from clear to white or yellow, green and brown. Redness of the nasal mucus may be due to the presence of blood. A clear nasal discharge may not be mucus but CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) which leaks from around the brain after a severe head injury.

Loss of Smell

Alterations in the sense of smell can occur with most nasal conditions. The ability to smell may be dulled which is known as hyposmia. In severe cases there can even be a complete loss of small which is anosmia. Sometimes there may be unpleasant odors which are perceived despite there being no bad odor in the environment. This is known as cacosmia.

Nasal Pain

Pain in the nose may vary in intensity and nature. It can be a dull ache, burning pain or throbbing pain. The pain may be intermittent or constant. Usually sneezing and blowing the nose aggravates the pain. However, in some cases even breathing can worsen the pain. Nose pain is usually worse with trauma, particularly when the nose is fractured.


Bleeding from the nose (epistaxis) is more commonly associated with a blow to the nose. However, it can occur with any of the nasal conditions particularly when it is severe. Epistaxis is usually acute. Sometimes the bleed may be slight and streak the mucus. At other times there may be profuse bleeding with no signs of mucus.

Causes of Nose Problems

There are a number of different nasal problems that may cause one or more of the symptoms mentioned above. The more common nose problems have been discussed in detail. It is important to seek attention for nasal problems. Various diagnostic investigations may be necessary to diagnose the exact type of nose problem and this should be done by a doctor.

Allergic Rhinitis

As the name suggests, this is an allergy-related condition. It is commonly known as hay fever. In allergic rhinitis, the lining of the nose is hypersensitive to pollen, dust and other harmless substances. This hypersensitivity is an immune-reaction. The immune system is abnormally triggered with exposure to these harmless substances. As a result the nasal lining becomes inflamed and symptoms like sneezing, nasal congestion and a runny nose arise.


A host of infections can affect the nasal cavity. Most of these infections are bacterial or viral. It may sometimes extend into the paranasal sinuses and the upper airways. The cold and flu are two common viral infections that involve the nose and upper airways. Bacterial rhinitis is often associated with bacterial sinusitis. It is more likely to occur in people with chronic sinusitis or following viral infections like the common cold or flu.


Injury to the nose can occur through various ways. It may be an external injury like a blow to the face and nose. If forceful, it can fracture the septum which is commonly referred to as a broken nose.The injury can also be internal. From aggressive nose picking to noxious chemicals entering the nose through the air, smoke or water, there are many ways that an internal nose injury may occur.


A nasal polyp is a common type of growth within the nose. It protrudes from the lining of the nasal cavity. Small polyps may cause little to no symptoms on its own. These growths are more likely to arise with chronic inflammation of the nose like chronic sinusitis. Other types of growths are uncommon. However, benign (non-cancerous) tumors may occur as can malignant (cancerous) tumors.


A deformity of the nose may occur after an injury, surgery, with certain diseases or be present from birth (congenital). A deviated septum is one of the more common types of nasal deformity. It can be congenital (present from birth) or acquired (develop during life usually with an injury to the nose). A rhinophyma is a less common condition. It is a skin disorder and causes the nose to become abnormally enlarged.

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