Nose gunk or mucus builds up in the sinuses where the trigeminal nerve begins. Can this crusty mucus actually irritate this nerve?
What is the trigeminal nerve?
There are 12 cranial nerves. The trigeminal is one of them: the fifth. It sends sensations to your face, nasal passages and other head structures. It also supplies movement to the jaw.
Fun Fact: Ever notice that when you feel a sneeze coming on, but it just won’t come – but if you look directly at a bright light above, it brings on the sneeze?
This is because the trigeminal nerve, if irritated, can cause a sneeze – and this complex motor nerve is located close to the optical nerve.
Now that’s something you can bring to the water cooler.
“Trigeminal neuralgia is a chronic irritation of the trigeminal nerve,” explains Dr. Stacey Silvers, MD, of Madison ENT & Facial Plastic Surgery in NYC, who is board certified in otolaryngology; one of her specialties is sinus surgery.
“It is thought to be related to compression of the nerve by a mass, trauma directly to the nerve and/or effects on the blood flow near the nerve,” continues Dr. Silvers.
“The dry mucus in the nose is irritating and can cause nasal pain; this is not trigeminal neuralgia.”
Yucky Gunk in the Nose
This, too, can cause a two or three sneezes in a row.
“Dry mucus can cause nasal crusting and nosebleeds with painful scabs,” says Dr. Silvers.
“Cultures for Staph infections should be done for non-healing nasal dryness and scabbing.
“Changes in climate, altitude and humidity are common causes of dryness and crusting in the nose.
“Treatment for this is over the counter nasal moisturizing ointments or sprays, humidifiers or prescription nasal ointments.”
When spraying, aim the stream at an angle rather than straight up your nose. This will reduce the amount of trauma to the tiny blood vessels in the nasal passages — and minimize tiny bleeds.