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Anatomy of the Human Nose

The nose is a central and prominent feature of the face, serving as the primary organ for breathing and the sense of smell. The anatomy of the nose is intricate and multifaceted, consisting of various structures that play a crucial role in respiratory and olfactory functions. Understanding the anatomy and function of the nose is essential for appreciating its significance in maintaining overall health and well-being.

Nose anatomy refers to the structural composition of the nose, encompassing both external and internal components. These components work in harmony to facilitate essential physiological processes such as breathing and smelling.

The nose is a vital component of the respiratory system. It acts as the primary entryway for air, filtering, humidifying, and warming the inhaled air before it reaches the lungs. This process is crucial for protecting the respiratory tract and ensuring efficient gas exchange within the body.

nose functions

Beyond its respiratory role, the nose functions as the primary organ for the sense of smell, contributing to our ability to perceive and interpret odours. Additionally, the nose plays a protective role, housing immune defences that guard against pathogens and foreign particles.

Anatomy of the Nose

The anatomy of the nose is divided into the external and internal nose, each comprising several structures that contribute to the nose’s overall function. Understanding these structures is fundamental to comprehending how the nose operates and interacts with other systems in the body.

External Nose

The external nose is the visible part of the nose located at the centre of the face. It is primarily composed of bone and cartilage and serves as the entrance to the respiratory system.

Nasal Bone

  • The nasal bone forms the upper third of the nose and provides structural support to the bridge of the nose.

Nasal Cartilage

  • The lower two-thirds of the nose are made up of flexible cartilage, which shapes the nostrils and the tip of the nose.


  • The nostrils, or nares, are the two openings at the base of the nose that allow air to enter and exit the nasal cavity.

Nasal Vestibule

  • The nasal vestibule is the immediate nasal cavity within the nostrils, lined with hair follicles and sebaceous glands to filter and trap foreign particles.

Internal Nose

The internal nose consists of the nasal cavity and several other structures that facilitate breathing and the sense of smell.

Nasal Cavity

  • The nasal cavity is a large, air-filled space behind the nose, divided into two halves by the nasal septum. It is lined with mucous membranes and cilia to filter, warm, and moisten the air.

Nasal Septum

  • The nasal septum is a thin wall of bone and cartilage that separates the two halves of the nasal cavity, ensuring an even flow of air.

Nasal Conchae

  • The nasal conchae are bony projections inside the nasal cavity that increase surface area and enhance the filtering, humidifying, and warming of the inhaled air.

Nasal Meatus

  • The nasal meatus are narrow passageways between the nasal conchae that direct airflow and facilitate the drainage of sinus secretions.

Paranasal Sinuses

The paranasal sinuses are air-filled cavities around the nasal cavity that contribute to the resonance of the voice and the production of mucus to moisten the nasal cavity.

Nasolacrimal Duct

The nasolacrimal duct connects the eyes to the nasal cavity, allowing the drainage of tears and debris from the eyes to the nose.

Function of the Nose

The nose is not merely a structural feature of the face; it plays several vital roles in human physiology. From enabling us to breathe to protecting against pathogens, the nose is a multifunctional organ essential for our health and well-being.


The sense of smell, or olfaction, is one of the primary functions of the nose. The nose houses the olfactory system, allowing us to detect and identify a wide range of odors.

Olfactory Epithelium

  • Located at the roof of the nasal cavity, the olfactory epithelium contains specialized sensory cells called olfactory receptors that detect odor molecules in the air.

Olfactory Bulb and Nerve

  • The olfactory bulb processes signals from the olfactory receptors and transmits them to the brain via the olfactory nerve, enabling us to perceive and interpret different smells.

Sense of Smell

  • The sense of smell is integral to taste, appetite, and the detection of hazards such as smoke and spoiled food, contributing to our overall quality of life.


Breathing is a fundamental life process, and the nose plays a central role in ensuring that the air we inhale is suitable for the lungs.

Air Filtration

  • The nose filters out dust, pollen, and other foreign particles from the air through the nasal hairs, mucous membrane, and cilia lining the nasal cavity.

Humidification and Warming of Air

  • The nasal cavity humidifies and warms the inhaled air to prevent dryness and irritation in the lungs and to optimize gas exchange.

Breathing Mechanism

  • The nose regulates airflow and pressure within the respiratory system, facilitating efficient breathing and preventing respiratory issues.


The nose serves as the first line of defense against harmful pathogens and irritants, protecting the respiratory system and the body as a whole.

Mucous Membrane and Cilia

  • The mucous membrane produces mucus that traps pathogens, while the cilia move the mucus and trapped particles towards the throat for elimination.

Production of Mucus

  • Mucus acts as a barrier against pathogens and keeps the nasal cavity moist, preventing irritation and infection.

Immune Defense

  • The nose contains immune cells that identify and neutralize harmful microorganisms, preventing them from entering the lungs and the bloodstream.

Common Nose Disorders and Conditions

The nose, given its exposure to environmental factors and its intricate structure, is susceptible to various disorders and conditions. These can range from structural abnormalities to infections, impacting the overall function and health of the nose.

Deviated Septum

A deviated septum occurs when the nasal septum is displaced or crooked, leading to breathing difficulties, nasal congestion, and sometimes recurrent sinus infections.

  • Causes: Congenital, injury to the nose, aging.
  • Symptoms: Blocked nostril, nosebleeds, facial pain, noisy breathing during sleep.
  • Treatment: Medication for symptoms, septoplasty for severe cases.


Rhinitis refers to the inflammation of the nasal mucous membrane, resulting in symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, and nasal itching.

  • Types: Allergic rhinitis (hay fever), non-allergic rhinitis.
  • Causes: Allergens (pollen, dust mites), irritants (smoke, perfume), viral infections.
  • Treatment: Avoidance of triggers, antihistamines, nasal corticosteroids.


Sinusitis is the inflammation or swelling of the tissue lining the sinuses, leading to symptoms such as nasal congestion, thick nasal mucus, and facial pain.

  • Causes: Viral, bacterial, or fungal infections, nasal polyps, deviated septum.
  • Treatment: Saline nasal spray, corticosteroids, antibiotics for bacterial sinusitis.

Nasal Polyps

Nasal polyps are soft, painless, noncancerous growths on the lining of the nasal passages or sinuses, causing nasal obstruction, loss of smell, and breathing difficulties.

  • Causes: Chronic inflammation, asthma, immune disorders, allergies.
  • Treatment: Nasal corticosteroids, surgery for larger polyps.


Nosebleeds, or epistaxis, occur when the small blood vessels inside the nostrils are ruptured, usually due to dry air, nose picking, or injury.

  • Causes: Dry or irritated nasal membranes, injury, blood-thinning medications.
  • Treatment: Pinching the nose, applying a cold compress, avoiding nose picking and irritants.

the structure of the human nose

Diagnostic Procedures and Treatments

Addressing nasal disorders and conditions promptly and effectively is crucial for maintaining the health and functionality of the nose. Various diagnostic procedures help identify the underlying issues, and a range of treatments are available to manage and resolve them.

Diagnostic Tests

Nasal Endoscopy

  • Nasal endoscopy involves inserting a thin, flexible tube with a camera into the nostrils to examine the internal structures of the nose and identify abnormalities.
  • Used for: Detecting nasal polyps, deviated septum, tumors, sources of bleeding.

Imaging Studies

  • Imaging studies such as CT scans and MRIs provide detailed images of the nasal structures and sinuses, aiding in the diagnosis of sinusitis, tumors, and structural abnormalities.
  • Used for: Evaluating sinus anatomy, detecting inflammation, assessing the extent of abnormalities.

Allergy Testing

  • Allergy testing helps identify specific allergens causing allergic rhinitis by exposing the skin or blood to common allergens and observing the reaction.
  • Used for: Identifying triggers for allergic rhinitis, guiding allergy management.

Treatment Options


  • Medications such as antihistamines, nasal corticosteroids, and antibiotics are commonly prescribed to manage symptoms and treat infections.
  • Used for: Relieving inflammation, reducing nasal congestion, treating bacterial infections.


  • Surgical interventions such as rhinoplasty, septoplasty, polypectomy, and sinus surgery are performed to correct structural abnormalities and remove growths.
  • Used for: Correcting deviated septum, removing nasal polyps, improving sinus drainage.

Lifestyle and Home Remedies

  • Lifestyle modifications and home remedies such as nasal irrigation, humidification, and avoiding irritants can help manage symptoms and prevent recurrence.
  • Used for: Alleviating nasal dryness, reducing exposure to allergens, promoting nasal health.

By utilising appropriate diagnostic procedures and treatments, individuals can effectively address nasal disorders and conditions, enhancing their quality of life and ensuring the optimal function of the nose.

Further reading

For those interested in learning more about the anatomy of the human nose, here are some recommended sources:

The External Nose

Nasal Bones

Sanjay Rai
Sanjay Rai

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