We all experience an itchy nose at times. It can occur for various different reasons and as a result of several conditions. Sometimes nasal itching may be a sign of awkwardness and nervousness where a person may scratch the nose for no identifiable cause. However, when the nose is itchy and tends to persist then it has to be investigated. Itching can occur either inside the nose (within the nasal cavity) or outside the nose (on the skin of the nose). Most of the time itching is a result of irritation or allergies, either of the nasal lining (inside) or skin (outside).
Skin of the Nose
The skin of the nose is continuous with the rest of the face and any cause of facial itching may also be a cause of an itchy nose. Some of the more common causes of itchy skin on the nose is due to injury, irritation and skin disorders or diseases that are likely to affect the face.
The skin of the nose, particularly on the bridge, is prone to sunburn due to its position. Not only does it protrude from the face but it is facing the sun even when standing and walking. Sunburn may not always be obvious. A person may not even realize mild sunburn has occurred until hours later when inflammatory symptoms arise. This may include itching, burning and redness of the skin. Sunburn is avoidable with appropriate headwear and sunscreen.
Contact dermatitis is a common skin condition caused by irritants or allergens on the skin surface. Irritants can vary from dust and skin care applications to water and even perspiration. As the name suggests, the substance irritates the skin which leads to inflammation. Allergens are also substances that trigger inflammation but this is due to an immune hypersensitivity to the substances. People who are allergic to certain substances will therefore experience a reaction on the skin surface.
Dryness of the skin is one of the more common skin conditions that presents with itching. Sometimes it may be related to skin diseases like atopic dermatitis or psoriasis. However, most of the time dryness is due to the climate and skin moisturizing. The oiliness or dryness of the skin also varies from person to person. The skin on the face is particularly prone to drying as it exposed to the climatic elements on a constant basis. However, in teens and other people prone to acne the opposite may be true as the skin is unusually oily.
Acne is a common condition affecting teens in particular. Due to hormonal changes, the oil glands become more active than normal and produce excess skin oil (sebum). There is a tendency for plugs to form which blocks the pores of follicles. Bacteria on the skin surface can then infect the skin. Inflammation may develop and this gives rise to the typical skin lesions known as papules (pimples). The face is most commonly affected with pimples arising anywhere on the face, including the nose.
- Insect bites
- Skin infections
- Periorificial dermatitis
- Actinic keratosis
- Seborrheic dermatitis
Inside the Nose
Itching inside the nose is a symptom that may be caused a host of factors and conditions. It is often a symptom of inflammation of the nasal lining. This inflammation is known as rhinitis and there are several different types. Many of the same causes as nasal burning and pain, sneezing and a runny nose may also cause nasal itching.
Dryness of the nasal passages can lead to irritation with symptoms like itching. Most of the time dry nasal passages are due to environmental factors, like dry or windy climates and air conditioning. However, the dryness may also be due to insufficient mucus production by the nasal lining. This may occur with conditions like Sjogren syndrome or with the overuse of medication such as decongestants, anticholinergics and anthistamines. Dry nasal passages may also occur with dehydration.
Airborne irritants may enter the nose with breathing and cause inflammation of the nasal lining. These irritants may include dust, sand, smoke, toxic fumes and strong odors. Apart from the type of substance, it also depends on the quantity and duration of exposure to the irritant. People with underlying nasal problems like allergic rhinitis are more likely to be triggered by exposure to irritants. Usually irritants cause acute inflammation and once it has been removed the symptoms subside a short while thereafter.
Injury to the nose can occur through various ways, such as picking the nose, vigorous blowing and wiping and improper use of nasal sprays. Even a blow to the nose which is external can also cause symptoms inside the nose. Chemical injury can also occur, like when swimming in chlorinated water or toxic fumes. Depending on the nature and severity of the injury, there may be itching, burning, pain, a runny nose and sneezing. The symptoms tend to start immediately during or after the injury.
Allergic rhinitis is a common condition where the lining of the nose becomes inflamed due to exposure to certain substances. These substances are usually harmless and do not pose a problem to most people. However, in people with allergic rhinitis the immune system is triggered and causes inflammation. Allergic rhinitis may be perennial where it persists through the year or seasonal where it arises or worsens during certain seasons (hay fever). Pollen, house dust mite, cockroach particles, mold and animal fur/hair (dander) are some of the common allergens.
Infections of the nasal cavity are also common. Most of the time it is acute and due to viruses like the common cold virus and influenza virus. The inflammation and associated nasal symptoms are usually intense us tend to last only for a few days. It usually resolves spontaneously. Bacterial infections tend to be more severe and require medical intervention. Most of the time the infection also involves the paranasal sinus (sinusitis). People with allergic conditions of the nose tend to be more prone to nasal infections.
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