The Nasal & Sinus Center is dedicated to the state-of-the-art evaluation and treatment of nasal and sinus disorders

Glossary of Terms

Rhinitis- Irritation and inflammation of the lining of the nasal cavities. A cold is a form of rhinitis, viral rhinitis. Allergies are another form of rhinitis. Rhinitis is associated with symptoms such as alternating nasal congestion, runny nose, and postnasal drip.

Allergens – Particles that effect the immune system in sensitive patients and lead to allergy symptoms, e.g., grass pollens, dust, cat dander.

Allergy symptoms – Itchy Symptoms such as, itchiness, watery eyes, runny nose, nasal congestion, and sneezing.

Allergic rhinitis- The development of inflammation of the lining of the nasal cavities due to sensitivity of the immune system to particular allergen(s).

Nonallergic rhinitis, vasomotor rhinitis – A reaction to particles or compounds without a change in your immune system. Common causes of Nonallergic rhinitis are: cigarette smoke, perfumes, cleaning chemicals.

Sinusitis, Rhinosinusitis – Inflammation of the lining of the sinus cavities. Often referred to as rhinosinusitis because inflammation of the sinus cavities rarely occurs without inflammation and swelling of the nasal cavities at the same time. You can suffer from sinusitis without having an infection.

Septum – An anatomic structure in the nose which divides the nose into left and right sides.

Septoplasty – A procedure that removed the misaligned portion of the septum to improve nasal airway breathing.

Functional endoscopic sinus surgery- The use of telescopes and instruments through the nose to reach and open the sinus cavities and remove diseased tissue.

Nasal and sinus polyps- Outgrowths of the natural lining of the nose and sinus cavities that occur as a result of chronic sinus problems and inflammation.

Rhinoplasty surgery- This surgery is performed to change the appearance of your nose. Oftentimes, such surgery is done to improve nasal breathing.

Paranasal sinuses – Air-filled cavities in the bones of your face that surround and drain into the nasal cavities. There are up to four sinuses per side of the head, with a possible total of eight sinuses. Some people have fewer than eight sinuses.

Nasal endoscopy – A telescope and camera are used to look into your nose to examination of the nasal structures and see the spaces where the sinuses drain into the nose.

  • Frontal sinuses are just over your eyebrows at the lower forehead
  • Maxillary sinuses are under your cheeks
  • Ethmoid sinuses are between your eyes
  • Sphenoid sinuses are located behind your eyes, in the middle of your head

Anatomy Lesson

Your Nose

Your nose is a central feature of your face.

It is a dynamic organ and has multiple functions – smelling, breathing, humidification, filtration, temperature regulation, mucous production and lubrication.

The lining of the nose is called mucosa which normally swells and decongests in what’s called the normal nasal cycle. The mucosa will stay swollen when irritated. This swelling may occur when you have a cold, allergies, or sinus infection.

Nasal cavities

Your internal nose is divided into left and right sides by the septum.

The nasal passages or cavities make up your nasal airway.

Within the nasal cavities reside the turbinates, scroll-shaped bones found on the walls of the nasal passages. The sinuses drain into the nose under the middle and superior turbinates.

The upper part of the the throat, called the nasopharynx, is behind the nasal cavities.


These are mucosa lined bony structures that extend from the (lateral) wall of the nasal cavity. There is a set of inferior, middle, and superior turbinates in each nasal cavity.

Like the nose, the turbinates are lined with mucosa which will swell and decongest during the nasal cycle.

Sometimes, the turbinates remain swollen despite normal physiology and the trial of medications. If this is the case for you, we may suggest trimming them to improve nasal breathing.

The Nasal Skeleton

The nasal skeleton forms your nasal cavity. There are three parts:

  • Upper third – nasal bones
  • Middle third – upper lateral cartilages
  • Lower third – lower lateral cartilages which form your nostrils

The nasal skeleton also consists of the septum which is composed of cartilage in the front and bone more deeply in the nose. The septum spans all three parts of the nasal skeleton in the midline. It is the structure that divides your nose into left and right nasal cavities on the inside.

Nasal breathing can be disturbed when any part of the nasal skeleton is out of alignment or protruding into your nasal cavity, such as with a deviated septum or with a broken nose.

Surgery can be done to reconstruct the nasal skeleton and improve nasal breathing.

However, if you have nasal mucosal problems, such as allergies or sinusitis, you will likely need to continue to take medications as surgery won’t change these conditions.

Your Sinuses

Sinuses are hollow spaces lined with mucosa, and these are filled with air when healthy. As an adult, we generally have 4 pairs of sinuses, one set for each side of the nose and face. The size, shape, and development vary from person to person.

  • Frontal – The frontal sinuses are in your forehead just above your nose.
  • Maxillary – These are located under your eyes beneath your cheeks.
  • Ethmoid – The ethmoid sinuses occupy space between your eyes and are made of many cells like a honeycomb.
  • Sphenoid – These are located behind your eyes in the middle of your head.

Sinusitis refers to inflammation and oftentimes infection of the sinus cavities. Associated signs and symptoms include, discolored nasal drainage, nasal congestion, nasal obstruction, facial pain or pressure, and decreased sense of smell.

Medicines often help relieve sinusitis. Chronic sinusitis is sinusitis that lasts for longer than 3 month. In some patients, surgery in addition to medications may help improve your condition. Speak to an Otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat doctor) who specializes in rhinology.

What’s next to my sinuses?

  • Nasal cavity
  • Eyes
  • Brain
  • Roof of mouth