14 julio, 2024

The nose, its parts and functions

The nose is one of the organs in our body that we use to breathe and smell. It is part of the respiratory system and is found more or less in the middle of the face, from where it protrudes above the mouth. It has two openings that we call «nostrils», which is where the air enters and leaves.

The nose is part of the respiratory system, the set of organs and tissues that help us breathe. Thanks to this system, our body can take advantage of the oxygen contained in the air and use it to feed and keep the cells that make us healthy.

This system is made up of many organs, but the most important are the nose, mouth, pharynx (throat), trachea (the tube that leads to the lungs), bronchi, and lungs.

In addition to belonging to the respiratory system, the nose is also the fundamental part of a sensory system that we know as the olfactory system, which is in direct communication with our central nervous system, that is, with our brain.


How is the nose involved in breathing?

When we inhale, that is, when we take air into our body, it flows from around us into the nostrils and from there it travels to the nasal cavity, then passing through the back of our throat, through the trachea and finally reaching the lungs. .

During exhalation, that is, when we expel air from our lungs, the nose is also the main exit site.

In the air we breathe there are different chemical molecules, many of which are what give things their characteristic smell. These molecules can be detected by a special set of cells, the olfactory receptors, which are inside our nose and thanks to which we can smell.

The olfactory receptors in the nose also help us to fully savor the food we consume on a daily basis, which is evident when we are congested, since we cannot distinguish flavors.

Parts of the nose and their functions

Like many other organs in our body, the nose has different parts that fulfill different special functions, let’s see what they are:

external parts

The external portion of the nose, that is, the one that protrudes from our face, is mainly made up of muscles, cartilage and bones covered by skin.

root and groove

We can say that the nose begins or «is born» in the groovewhich is the region located on our upper lip, and «ends» in the rootwhich is between the eyebrows, in the upper part of our face.

The bridge and the back

The shape of our nose depends on two structures known as the bridge and the back, which are located between the root (between the eyebrows) and the most pointed portion. The function of these two structures is to protect the inside of the nose.

The bridge is the hardest structure, it is made up of bone, hence its rigidity; It is where the glasses rest.

The back (also known as the nasal pyramid), on the other hand, is made up of cartilage, making it a firm but more flexible structure.

When we draw a nose in profile, the back is the more or less straight line that we draw from the middle of the eyebrows to the tip, which has a rounded shape, this region is known as the lobe.

The fins or nasal wings

On the sides of the tip of our nose, «connected» to the rest of the face, are what many authors call the nasal wingswhich are the fragments of tissue that determine the opening of the nostrils, which is very important from the point of view of the entry of air into the respiratory system.

the nostrils

The nostrils communicate with the outside through the nostrils which, depending on the person, can be more or less wide and which is where the air enters that must be humidified and warmed before reaching the innermost regions of our body. body.

internal parts

The nostrils

Our nose has two holes that are called «nostrils» and that represent the openings through which the air, with all its chemical particles, flows into our body: towards the lungs and towards the olfactory nerves, so that we can breathe. and smell.

nasal septum

The nostrils are separated from each other thanks to the presence of a kind of wall called «septum».

The deepest part of the septum (closest to the brain) is made of very thin bone, but the region at the tip, farthest from the face, is made of a very flexible material called cartilage, which is very firm, but not as strong. hard as bone

nasal cavity

Behind our nose (the one that protrudes from our face), that is, in the depth of the skull, there is a space that connects the nose with the posterior region of the throat and this is called the «nasal cavity».

This cavity is one of the first places through which the air we breathe flows to make its way to the lungs through the trachea.

It is a more or less cylindrical space that is divided in half by the nasal septum and that is surrounded by different structures known as «sinuses», of which there are four pairs: the maxillary sinuses, the frontal sinuses, the ethmoid sinuses and the sphenoid sinuses.

The breasts serve several general functions, such as:

Cushion certain facial traumas.
Humidify and warm the inspired air.
Isolate sensitive structures from temperature changes in the nose.
Increase the resonance of our voice.
Provide immune defense, preventing us from getting sick.
Decrease the relative weight of the skull.

mucous membrane

The entire internal region of our nose is covered by a tissue that we call the mucous membrane or respiratory mucosa.

This membrane is responsible for maintaining a humid environment inside our nose and allows the air we breathe to warm and humidify before traveling to the lungs.

The mucous membrane also participates in the production of a substance or fluid called «mucus», which despite seeming very unpleasant to us is of great importance for our health: the mucus is responsible for «trapping» the dust contained in the air we breathe, as well as the other particles and germs that can travel in it, which is essential to protect our lungs.

Without being sick, the mucous membrane and some sinuses in our nose are responsible for the production of about a quart of mucus a day, that’s a lot!


In addition to all the previous structures, inside our nose there are many cilia or microscopic hairs whose main function is to prevent the mucus produced by the mucous membranes (which in theory is full of dust and germs) from reaching the lungs or other structures. inside our skull.

olfactory receptors

We already said that the nose is one of the fundamental organs for breathing. However, it also performs an important function for our sensory system, which is how we are aware of the world around us.

Thanks to our nose we can smell and that is only possible due to the presence inside it of millions of cells known as olfactory receptors. These cells (nerve endings) belong to what is called the “olfactory epithelium”, which is located on the “roof”, that is, the highest part, of the nasal cavity.

These receptors are chemoreceptors, as they recognize the chemical molecules present in the air we breathe and are capable of responding to them, sending specific signals to our brain.

The sense of smell is very important, because it not only allows us to detect odors that cause us some pleasure, but also gives us information about the state of the food we eat, the environment where we find ourselves, and even possible dangers around us. .

diseases of the nose

Many people undergo facial surgeries to «improve» or «modify» the appearance of their natural nose, but this is most often for aesthetic rather than functional purposes.

However, like any other organ in our body, the nose is also prone to disease or injury, which can have serious implications for our daily lives, especially as far as the respiratory system is concerned.

Some of the diseases most commonly associated with the nose are:

Deviated septum: it has to do with a deviation of the «wall» that divides the nasal cavity, which results in one nostril being smaller than the other, a fact that can have negative implications for breathing.
Nasal polyps: are soft tissue growths in the nasal mucous membrane or in the paranasal sinuses. They are usually benign, but can clog the nasal passages, preventing proper breathing.
Rhinitis: it is an inflammatory process of the paranasal sinuses or other internal structures of the nose, very commonly caused by allergies and which produces an increase in nasal secretions.
Fractures: these are very common internal injuries due to strong blows, which must be corrected as soon as possible, in order to avoid the formation of calluses or important nasal obstructions.


Britannica Kids. (n.d.). Retrieved September 9, 2020, from kids.britannica.com
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Fox, YES (2002). Human physiology. McGraw-Hill.
KidsHealth from Nemours. (2020). Retrieved September 10, 2020, from kidshealth.org

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