Nasal mucosa


The nasal mucous membrane is a thin layer of tissue that lines our nasal cavities from the inside. It is formed from specific skin cells that are provided with around 50-300 short, brush-like nose hairs, the so-called cilia. In addition, there are glands for secretion formation and venous plexus for air flow regulation embedded in the nasal mucous membrane. The secretion formed by the glands wets the entire surface of the mucous membrane.

There are around 10 million specialized sensory cells in the upper nasal passage. These so-called olfactory cells form our olfactory mucous membrane, which is able to perceive smells. Their specialty, in contrast to other sensory cells such as those of the eyes or ears, is their ability to regenerate. They are renewed by the body about every one to two months. In around 80% of people, the so-called nasal cycle causes the nasal mucosa to swell and swell alternately via the embedded vein networks. The result is that most of the time you only breathe through one nostril. This is due to the fact that one of the two nostrils is minimally swollen. Most of the inhaled air then flows through the open nostril. The duration of the nasal cycle is between 30 minutes and 14 hours. A regeneration and resting phase for the nasal mucous membranes is assumed here.

Anatomy of the nose

Figure of the nose: side wall of the right nasal cavity
  1. Upper turbinate -
    Concha nasi superior
  2. Upper nasal passage -
    Superior nasal meatus
  3. Middle turbinate -
    Concha nasi media
  4. Middle nasal passage -
    Meatus nasi medius
  5. Lower turbinate -
    Concha nasi inferior
  6. Lower nasal passage -
    Inferior nasal meatus
  7. Atrium of the nasal cavity -
    Vestibulum nasi
  8. Olfactory threads - Fila olfactoria
  9. Olfactory bulb - Olfactory bulb
  10. Rear opening of the
    Nasal cavity - Choana
  11. Nasal cavity - Cavitas nasi
  12. Pharyngeal almond -
    Pharyngeal tonsil
  13. Frontal sinus - Frontal sinus
  14. Sphenoid sinus -
    Sphenoid sinus
  15. Oral cavity - Cavitas oris
  16. Tongue - Lingua

You can find an overview of all Dr-Gumpert images at: medical illustrations


The main functions of our nasal mucosa are smelling and breathing as well as the preparation of the air we breathe through cleaning, warming and humidification.

The nasal mucous membrane is used to keep our airways clean and to ward off infections. If foreign bodies, pathogens or other particles, such as dust, get into our body through the air we breathe, they stick to the nasal mucosa to a certain extent. The cilia of the nasal mucous membrane beat about 450 to 900 per minute and thus transport the mucus, which is contaminated with the smallest particles, towards the throat. There it is either ejected through the mouth or swallowed and broken down by the acid in our stomach.

The mucus produced by the glands prevents pathogens and dirt particles from entering our lungs. Another function of the nasal mucosa is to warm the air we breathe. The strong blood circulation in the nasal mucous membrane through extensive venous plexus warms the cold breathing air and thus prevents cold air from penetrating the bronchi and lungs. In addition, the secretion of a healthy nasal mucous membrane and its evaporation humidify the breathing air. In addition, certain medications such as nasal sprays are absorbed through the nasal mucosa. The abuse of drugs such as cocaine also takes place via the so-called "Sniffing“This means that it is absorbed into the body's circulation through the nasal mucous membrane.

In addition, our nasal mucous membrane contributes to the formation of taste, voice and language: if you have a cold or if you hold your nose, on the one hand your voice changes, on the other hand the taste of the chewed food is largely eliminated.

Clinical pictures

An inflammation of the nasal mucous membrane, known medically as rhinitis or better known as a runny nose, leads to an acute or permanent inflammation of the nasal mucous membrane. Triggers can be pathogens (often viruses), allergies (e.g. pollen, house dust mites, animal hair), tissue shrinkage in the nasal mucosa caused by malformations or tumors or even the use of nasal sprays itself. With regard to the nasal sprays, long-term use for several weeks leads to a local dependence of the nasal mucosa on the decongestant drug. The result: the nasal mucous membrane is no longer able to swell its mucous membrane without the supplied nasal spray and thus gives the feeling of a blocked and swollen nose. It is therefore advisable to take nasal sprays in combination with sea water.

Symptoms of inflammation of the nasal mucosa include sneezing, itching, runny nose, nasal congestion, obstruction of nasal breathing, or burning pain. The therapy depends on the triggering illness and the symptoms. The airways are kept free by taking decongestant nasal drops and inhaling salt water vapor. If the inflammation of the nasal mucous membrane is due to an allergy, it is treated with antihistamines or cortisone medication. In the case of severe bacterial infections, it may be necessary to take an antibiotic. In the case of malformations in the area of ​​the nose, surgical intervention with surgical correction is recommended. The opposite of a cold, runny nose is the dry nose. This leads to a drying out of the moist nasal mucous membranes. The causes can be dry room air as well as overheated or air-conditioned rooms, high levels of dust or the onset of a cold.

Those affected complain of itching, a feeling of dryness in the nose, burning, crust formation, nosebleeds or a decrease in smell. A permanently dry nose can cause the nasal mucosa to lose its protective function and thus create a breeding ground for pathogens. If the dry nose lasts for several days, consult a doctor. The therapy consists initially in eliminating the triggering cause. Dry rooms should be equipped with humidifiers such as water-filled bowls on heaters. Nasal sprays with sea water or nasal showers with salt water can also keep the nasal mucosa moist. In addition, nourishing agents such as nasal ointments can counteract a dry nose.