What the Inside of Your Nose Reveals
Have you ever wondered why your healthcare provider looks inside your nose during
an exam? When you have a runny nose or congestion, your provider needs a good look
at the source of the problem.
Healthcare providers will look inside your nose as part of a routine physical exam.
They will also look inside your nose when they think you may have other problems such
as an infection or allergy. Sometimes they're looking for other sources of your breathing
problem, such as a deviated septum. This is a shifting of the wall that divides the
nasal cavity into 2 parts.
The healthcare provider will use a light source with a tool (nasal speculum). This
can get a clear view of about 1½ to 2 inches inside your nose if there is no congestion.
Here is what your provider is looking for:
One of the first things your provider will notice is color. Your provider may see
Your nasal membranes are bluish or pale and look swollen. Then you may have allergic rhinitis. This is an inflammation caused by a nasal allergy.
If this is the case, you might have a nasal discharge that is clear or white. Your
provider might prescribe antihistamines or a nasal steroid to reduce the swelling.
Your nasal membranes are more red than pale. And you have thick, yellow discharge. Then you may have an infection. If your infection
affects the nose, throat, and ears and you have no fever or only a slight one, it
may be a cold virus. Viruses often move around in the body. Many people will ask for
an antibiotic when they have a cold. But antibiotics can't treat viruses. They only
treat bacterial infections. For a viral infection in the nose, providers can prescribe
decongestants to treat the symptoms.
You may have a fever, with soreness around the bridge of your nose and the top of
your cheeks. This may be a sinus infection.
Mucus in the sinuses often drains into the nasal passages. When you have a sinus infection,
those passages can't drain correctly because of inflammation. If your provider finds
that the infection is bacterial, you may need to take an antibiotic to treat it.
Not all nasal problems are caused by allergy and infection. You can be born with a
deviated septum. Or you can develop one from a broken nose. In both cases, the deviated
septum can make it can be hard to breathe through your nose. Sometimes surgery is
When a healthcare provider looks inside your nose, he or she may notice a nasal polyp.
This is a growth on the mucous membrane. Sometimes these polyps must be removed. Some
people with polyps have asthma. Some also have a sensitivity to aspirin or a nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). If you have all of these symptoms, it's called Samter's