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Etiologies of nasal symptoms: An overview

Marilene B Wang, MD
Section Editor
Jonathan Corren, MD
Deputy Editor
Anna M Feldweg, MD


Nasal obstruction, congestion, and other nasal symptoms are common complaints. There are numerous causes for nasal obstruction because of the complex anatomy of the nose and paranasal sinuses and the physiology of normal airflow through the nose.

This topic provides an overview of the basic anatomy of the nose and paranasal sinuses and reviews structural problems that result in nasal symptoms. Inflammatory conditions causing nasal symptoms and medications and systemic medical problems that cause rhinitis are reviewed separately. (See "An overview of rhinitis" and "Chronic nonallergic rhinitis" and "Chronic rhinosinusitis: Clinical manifestations, pathophysiology, and diagnosis".)


A basic understanding of the anatomy of the nose and paranasal sinuses is essential for the clinician evaluating nasal symptoms.

Nose — The external nose is a pyramidal structure composed of skin, dorsal nasal bones, and upper and lower lateral cartilages (figure 1). In addition, the medial and lateral crura and columella contribute to the tip structure.

The internal anatomy of the nose includes the following important structures:

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: May 10, 2016.
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