Although it may seem strange to suggest that something as innocuous as picking your nose could contribute to the development of a serious degenerative disease like Alzheimer’s, it might not be as far-fetched as it sounds.
Your nose is directly connected to your brain, and some recent research suggests that the nerves in your nose may be an entry point for microorganisms known to damage the brain.
Alzheimer’s Disease and Beta-Amyloid Plaques
Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disorder that causes memory loss, confusion, and eventually death.
The cause of Alzheimer’s is not fully understood, but one characteristic sign of the disease is the presence of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain.
Beta-amyloid plaques are sticky protein deposits that can damage and kill brain cells. As beta-amyloid plaques build up in the brain, they can interfere with communication between neurons and ultimately lead to cognitive decline and dementia.
Infections and Alzheimer’s Plaques
Multiple studies have shown that viral and bacterial infections may trigger processes that lead to the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain.
C. pneumoniae bacteria have been specifically linked to the development of beta-amyloid plaques. But it is also suspected that herpes simplex viruses and other pathogens may cause similar effects.
It’s unlikely that an infection would quickly lead to full-blown Alzheimer’s disease. However, the illness’s long-term effects could contribute to the gradual accumulation of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain.
The Risks of Picking Your Nose
Picking your nose seems like a harmless habit, but it could increase your risk of getting an infection.
If you had recently touched something contaminated with pathogenic bacteria or viruses and then picked your nose, you’ve delivered those microorganisms directly to a place inside your body where they can live and grow.
Picking your nose can also damage the delicate tissues in your nose, leaving you even more vulnerable to infection.
And once an infection takes hold in your nose, it can bypass your blood-brain barrier (the protective barrier that normally keeps harmful substances out of your brain) and enter your brain.
While there is no direct evidence that picking your nose can cause Alzheimer’s, initial mice research has demonstrated that C. pneumoniae bacteria can affect your olfactory nerves and contribute to the development of the beta-amyloid plaques that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.
Picking your nose is unlikely to be the only factor or primary cause of the development of Alzheimer’s disease. However, it may be a contributing factor, particularly if you are already genetically predisposed to the disease.
If you are concerned about Alzheimer’s disease, ask your doctor for more specific guidance on how you can reduce your risk.