Sinusitis (or rhinosinusitis) is the inflammation of the sinuses and the nasal passages caused by a viral, bacterial or fungal infection. The sinuses are hollow, air-filled cavities within a bone inside the skulland are lined with mucus membranes. They produce mucus that is drained through the nose.The sinuses filter and control the temperature and water content of the air.
The four pairs of sinuses include:
- Frontal sinuses (behind the forehead)
- Maxillary sinuses (behind the cheekbones)
- Ethmoid sinuses (behind the nose)
- Sphenoid sinuses (behind the eyes)
Sinuses connect to the nasal passages. An inflammation of the four pairs of sinuses is what causes sinusitis. The inflammation could bring an obstruction or congestion, and as a result, the sinuses become blocked. Usually the mucus can easily be drained out with air freely flowing through the sinuses. However, as the sinuses become blocked, the mucus builds up inside the paranasal sinus, leading to bacteria and germs accumulating inside and aggravate the infection and inflammation.
Types of Sinusitis
Sinusitis is broadly classified as acute or chronic, depending on the duration of the symptoms.
Acute Viral Sinusitis
Typically lasts up to four weeks and is caused by a viral infection. This is a common ailment that occurs not more than three times in a year. This type of a sinus infection usually occurs after a subsequent upper respiratory infection.
Usuallylasts for four or more weeks and the symptoms last longer than three months on end. Chronic sinusitis occurs more frequently as compared to the acute sinusitis case. This form of the condition requires that one should visit a doctor for a check-up as it may also be caused by any other disease that has chronic sinusitis as its symptom.
There are a host of reasons for chronic sinusitis to occur, such as the person developing nasal polyps (benign tumor or outgrowth), an allergic reaction, tumors, or respiratory tract infections, be it fungal, bacterial or viral in nature.
Symptoms of Sinusitis
The symptoms for the two types of sinus infections include:
Acute Viral Sinusitis Symptoms
- Sore throat
- A cough (usually worse at night)
- Thick, green or yellow nasal discharge from the nose or its accumulation down at the back of the throat
- Difficulty in breathing due to nasal blockage and nose stuffiness
- Restricted sense of smell and taste
- Facial pain caused by swelling, pressure, or tenderness, usually around the eyes, forehead, cheeks or nose
- Bad or foul breath
Chronic Sinusitis Symptoms
- Thick green or yellow discharge through the nose or down the back of the throat
- Difficulty in breathing caused by nasal stuffiness or congestion
- Facial pain or in the affected sinus region caused by swelling, pressure or tenderness around the eyes, forehead, cheeks or nose
- Limited sense of taste and smell
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Foul breath
- Frequent coughing, usually at night
- Pain surrounding the lower jaw and teeth
When to See a Doctor
Usually sinusitis can be cured quickly with certain remedies,but one must seek a doctor if:
- One experiences persistent fever
- Symptoms do not improve in a few days (usually a week) despite measures being taken to ease the sinusitis, or if the symptoms actually exacerbate
- There is prior history of frequent chronic sinusitis
- There is a stiff neck
- There is shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Disorientation and confusion occurs
- One has a swollen forehead region
- There are agonizing headaches
- Double vision or other anomalies hindering normal vision occur
Treatments of Sinusitis
The following treatments for sinusitis can be very effective in easing the nasal congestion and inflammation and eventually curing sinusitis.
- Have plenty of rest. Taking ample rest will help the body to recuperate and ward off the infection more swiftly.
- Drink many fluids. Drinking a sufficient amount of fluids like healthy juices and water helps mitigate the mucus in the sinuses and helps ease the drainage and thus reducing the nasal stuffiness.
- Moisten sinus cavities. This could be done by either standing in a hot shower where there is steam or by draping a hot towel over the head, and breathing in steam from a pot of hot water. The steam effectively reduces the nasal congestion. This must be done several times a day.
- Apply warm compress. Applications of a damp and warm towel around the facial area specifically the forehead, cheeks, and nose regions where there is painful swelling or general discomfort.
- Wash nasal passages. This could be done by using a specifically designed squeeze bottle available from a pharmacy or a neti pot (a container used to store the saline solution for the irrigation of the nasal cavity)to flush out the mucus accumulated inside the nose. Care must be taken to properly rinse through and dry out the irrigation device so it can be used multiple times.
- Sleep in an elevated position. To alleviate the sinusitis pain at night, one can sleep in an elevated position so as to lessen the congestion and help with the drainage flow of the mucus.
In some cases these home remedies may not work, as a result, the symptoms may linger for a couple of days. In this situation, one must turn to other treatments and drugs. These would usually be recommended by a doctor.
They can help in easing the blocked nasal passages. Must be sprayed inside the nose several times a day in order to take effect.
Help in relieving stuffiness and blocked noses. These can be bought over-the-counter (OTC) or prescribed by a doctor in the form of syrups, tablets or nasal sprays. Some common decongestants include Actified, Sudafed, and Vicks.
These are nasal sprays that help by relieving inflammation. Some common nasal corticosteroids are fluctasinode (flonase), budesonide (rhinocort), and others.
These include ibuprofen (Advil, Brufen, and others), aspirin and acetaminophen (Panadol, Tylenol and others).
Antibiotics are helpful if the infection is serious and persistent. Some of the prescribed antibiotics include Amoxil and Septra. The course of medication must be stringently followed for recovery.
These are used when sinusitis is caused by a fungal infection. These are prescribed when the symptoms are severe.
In rare cases, surgery may be the course of treatment for sinusitis if the aforementioned methods are futile. The specialist prescribes the appropriate surgery depending on the nature of the sinusitis.
One common surgery for sinusitis is functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS). Nasal endoscopes are used to widen the drainage passages and flush out the sinuses. This can be performed under general or local anesthesia.
There are other types of surgery as well depending on the type of sinusitis. The surgery can correct a nasal constriction or remove the nasal polyps.
Prevention of Sinusitis
Since sinusitis is a common ailment, its prevention can greatly help in avoiding unnecessary discomfort and pain.
- Have healthy diet. Eating healthy foods like vegetables and fruits which have rich antioxidants and other important vitamins. Such foods canstrengthen the immune system so it can quickly ward off the infection.
- Form good personal hygiene. Always wash hands before eating, drinking, and after using the toilet.
- Get vaccination. An influenza vaccine should be taken annually.
- Drinking fluids. Keeping dehydrated by drinking plenty of water and juices can boost the moisture in the body.
- Don’t smoking and avoiding pollutants. Abstaining from smoking and breathing in clean air keeps the air passages clean and free from germs.
- Use a humidifier. A humidifier can be used to keep nasal passages free from obstruction and to enhance moisture content.
You can get a general understanding of sinusitis from the following video: