REVEALED! Why You Have Maxillary Sinuses
Researchers at the University of Iowa have unlocked one of the greatest mysteries in otolaryngological anatomy. (I know, you’ve been waiting.) It turns out the vast empty spaces in our cheeks known as maxillary sinuses may have actually evolved to allow the human nose to change shape according to its environment.
Noses are some of the most pronounced differences between human ethnicities. As it turns out, our noses change shape over thousands of generations in response to things like temperature and humidity. The maxillary sinuses play an important role in facilitating these changes: They allow the nose to adapt in different ways without affecting the rest of the face. In this sense, the sinuses act as a buffer zone for nasal evolution:
The maxillary sinuses and the nose share the same wall, like neighbors in a duplex. Whether they are on good terms or at odds is important, because the nose needs to be able to assume different shapes — and change that shape without shifting everything else in the face and cranium — to maximize its function depending on the climate. Put more simply, the human nose has evolved over time depending on the type of climate where humans have lived. In colder places, the nose has evolved to be narrower and longer, the better to trap air in the nasal passage and warm and moisten it, which is exactly how the lungs like it. In warmer climates, the nose is broader and shorter, because the air generally already is warm and moist and so the goal is to transport it quickly to the lungs, rather than let it reside in the nasal passages. That explains, broadly speaking, the long . . . shape of the typical northern European nose and the flatter, broader shape of the African nose. The maxillary sinuses have been around as long as the nose, but it’s been unclear why.
There you have it: proof positive that your sinuses serve a function beyond sinusitis and respiratory distress. If you have any sinus symptoms and suspect evolution may not be at work, I urge you to contact an expert sinus practice today.