The nose functions as an air conditioner that warms, humidifies and cleans inhaled air. The nose is specially constructed to quickly and efficiently prepare the air in the same way that an air conditioner unit works. The inside of the nose is equipped with the following parts to accomplish this:
- The nasal septum is a midline wall in the nasal cavity that separates the nose into right and left passageways. This wall is almost never perfectly straight, but most people do not have problems from deviation of the septum. If the septum is significantly moved off of the center, it causes a nasal blockage, mucus accumulation, increased nasal infections and sometimes pain and pressure sensations. As a NYC expert in deviated septum repair, Dr. Volpi straightens the septum with an operation called Septoplasty, which places the septum to the midline so that there is free flow of air on both sides.
- At the same time and when necessary, Dr. Volpi can adjust the size of the inferior turbinates. These scroll shaped organs act like the coils inside the air conditioner to warm, humidify and clean the incoming air. When enlarged turbinates block the breathing passages, their size can be adjusted to better fit within the nasal cavity.
- After these procedures are performed, patients have improved flow of air with less discomfort from a stuffy, blocked nose.
Nasal stuffiness, pain and excessive mucus are perceived as unpleasant, but they occur as part of the protective efforts of the nose to perform its important functions and to protect itself. These functions include the following:
- When we have an infection or injury to the nose, the nose protects itself by flushing the invasive process away. For example, a cold virus causes infection by injury to the nasal lining tissue. The immune system, which is constantly patrolling the mucus blanket for invaders, jumps into action to eliminate bacteria, viruses and air born chemicals. In order to “flush away” the invader, our nose ramps up its production of mucus. Mucus is filled with immune system molecules and destroys bacteria, viruses and molds to protect the nasal entrance into our bodies.
- Other nasal symptoms, such as sneezing, itching and runny nose, are part of the protection that the nose and sinuses use to defend their delicate tissues.
- Dryness of the nose is also detrimental to the function of the nasal lining, which must always be covered by a layer of mucus. If this mucus is removed or dries up, the underlying living tissue is directly exposed to the outside world, leading to drying out of the living cells, injuring deeper layers of the nasal lining. As the cells are lost to drying, blood vessels become exposed and bleeding from the nose occurs. In some cases the bleeding can be severe enough to require hospitalization and surgery.
Keeping the nose healthy is important to our well being. In cold, dry weather Dr. Volpi recommends the use of special sprays and irrigations to hydrate the nasal lining and discourage infections. These treatments can be used frequently during the day and night to help protect the delicate nasal lining tissue from dryness, infection and injury.
Olfaction, or the Sense of Smell, is critical to the detection of chemicals in our surroundings. Loss of the sense of smell is devastating. No longer can you enjoy food or be aware of smoke and harmful chemicals. When we lose the sense of smell, our interaction with the rest of the chemical world is impaired, affecting our eating, and reducing our awareness of noxious chemicals and impairing our interactions with other people.
Because olfaction was the first sense that living organisms acquired, it is at the core of our senses. In order to perceive odors, special sensory cells line the protected, upper reaches of the nasal cavity. There are about 6 million receptor cells, each of which responds to one particular odor. Nerve impulses from these cells are sent to the brain, where the conscious awareness of odors is perceived. Our emotions, which are primitive responses to external events, are driven by the sense of smell. Think of how a pleasant meal or a foul odor affects us and how strong our response is to these stimuli; the sense of smell is truly important to our everyday lives. Below are the most common causes of loss of smell:
- Age. After the age of 60, all of us can expect to begin to lose some of our smell ability.
- Viral injury. Infection with a cold virus is the most commonly diagnosed cause of smell loss.
- Head injury. Serious head trauma can injure or tear the delicate nerve fibers that originate in the nose and extend through the skull base into the brain.
- Inhalants. Strong chemicals, certain medications and acids can injure the smell nerves.
- Medications. Certain medications have been shown to injure the sense of smell.
- Congenital. Some people are born without a sense of smell due to genetic illness.
- Degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s Parkinson’s and aging.
- Tumors. Growths in the nose, sinuses and brain can injure the sense of smell.
Dr. Volpi is one of the few ENT specialists who focus on this important sense. He has developed innovative approaches to diagnose and treat loss of the senses of smell and taste. Many of his patients have benefitted from his treatments and have had their sense of smell and taste improved or restored.