Sinusitis means inflammation of the sinuses which surround the nose. The sinuses are spaces within the bones of the face located in the cheeks, forehead, and around the eyes. All the sinuses are linked together and connect to the nose and throat through narrow channels known as ostia. One of the primary functions of the sinuses is to warm and moisten the air which is inhaled before it can reach the lungs. Sinuses are also lined with specialised cells which help to prevent infections. They do this by producing mucus that traps dirt and other pollutant particles which are breathed in.
Causes and Symptoms of Sinusitis
Sinusitis can be caused by an excess of mucus or swelling in the lining of the sinuses and nose, both of which can cause a blockage in the narrow channels. If the condition lasts less than eight weeks, it is called acute sinusitis, however, if the condition lasts more than three months it may be chronic sinusitis. In chronic sinusitis, the lining of the nose and sinuses is thicker and constantly inflamed.
Causes of infective sinusitis include;
- Viral infections, including the common cold
- Bacterial infections, which are usually a result of a complication of viral sinusitis
- Fungal infections, which usually present in patients who have an underlying problem in their sinuses or immune system, such as in patients with cystic fibrosis
Other causes of sinusitis include;
- Airborne allergens, such as when individuals suffer from hay fever and react to grass and tree pollen
- Sinus lining irritation in response to chemicals, such as household detergent sprays or chlorine in swimming pools
- Sinus lining irritation in response to smoke or air pollution
Bacteria can grow inside the sinuses which can cause pain, headaches, or even a fever. Excess mucus which is produced once the sinuses get infected can be either yellow or green. Some individuals may find they get sinusitis every time they get a cold, whereas others may rarely develop the condition.
The main symptoms which occur in sinusitis include;
- Feelings of pain and pressure in the face
- Feelings of tenderness in the face, or pain in the upper jaw or teeth
- Feelings of being unwell, including nausea, headaches, bad breath, or exhaustion
- A blocked or runny nose
- A reduction in the sense of smell and taste
- A high body temperature
- Swelling around the eyes
Treatment of Sinusitis
Usually, most people don’t require any specialist treatment for acute sinusitis and will recover on their own. However, if you find that your symptoms continue or worsen for more than seven days, you should book an appointment with your doctor.
Self-help techniques such as salt-water nasal sprays are known to help ease the symptoms of chronic sinusitis. Some people find that breathing in steam from hot (not boiling) water can provide temporary relief also.
Otherwise, medications such as over the counter painkillers can help relieve pain and reduce any fever. Decongestant and mild steroid nasal sprays are also available in both over the counter and prescription form. If your doctor suspects your sinusitis is a result of a bacterial infection, they can prescribe antibiotics to resolve the condition.
If you feel you’re suffering from severe sinusitis or have had the condition for more than a week, see your doctor for a professional opinion and treatment.