Stuffy nose, sinus headaches, postnasal drip — sound familiar? Learn why you get sinus infections and how to get relief…
Pain in the forehead or between the eyes? Upper teeth ache? Face feeling full, nose stuffy and congested? You may have a common complaint that sends many people to a doctor’s office: sinus trouble.
Sinuses: Air Spaces in Your Head
Sinuses are air spaces in your skull lined with mucous membranes. Most people have four sets of nasal sinuses: Two frontal sinuses in the forehead above the eyes. Two maxillary sinuses, one inside each cheek bone. Ethmoid sinuses: a group of cavities behind the bridge of the nose. Sphenoid sinuses, behind the nose and underneath the brain. Sinuses are like fingerprints; everybody’s are different. Some people have no frontal sinuses or just one.
What Is Sinusitis?
Tiny, hair-like structures called cilia help move mucus across sinus membranes and toward an exit. All of your sinus cavities connect to your nose to allow a free exchange of air and mucus. Infections or allergies make sinus tissues inflamed, red, and swollen. That’s called sinusitis.
Just a Cold … at First
Sinusitis usually starts with inflammation triggered by a cold, allergy attack, or irritant. But it may not end there. Colds, allergies, and irritants make sinus tissues swell.
Stuffy, Puffy, and Sore
Sinusitis causes many symptoms. Most people have a stuffy nose and pain or pressure in several locations around the face or teeth. There’s usually a nasal discharge that may be yellow, green, or clear. Other symptoms may include fatigue, decreased sense of smell and/or taste, cough, sore throat, bad breath, headache, pain on bending forward, and fever.
Inflammation of the sinus cavity that lasts for more than three months is chronic sinusitis. Although bacteria often colonise obstructed sinuses, bacterial infections are not the only cause of chronic sinusitis. Anatomy, allergies, polyps, immune deficiencies, and dental diseases may also cause chronic sinus problems.
When sinuses remain inflamed, sinus membranes may thicken and swell. The swelling can be significant enough to cause grape-like masses called polyps. Polyps may protrude from the sinus into the nasal passage and partially or completely block the nasal airway.
Nasal Decongestants: Relief, at a Cost
These sprays open swollen nasal passages and allow your sinuses to drain. That can be helpful, especially during the worst days of a cold or during air travel. But you should use these drugs only for a few days. After that, there’s a kick-back effect, making your nasal passages swell shut again. Decongestants are not indicated for chronic use. Oral decongestants may help, but also have side effects. Better solutions for acute sinus symptoms: nasal steroid sprays or saline sprays or washes…
Rhinovirus 14, responsible for the common cold
The common cold is a viral infection. Colds can lead to sinusitis symptoms, but these usually clear by themselves.
Antibiotics Usually Not Needed
Antibiotics do not treat viruses, so they won’t help the sinus symptoms of a cold. Cold symptoms end in seven to 14 days. Usually, cold-related sinusitis goes away then, too.
When to See the Doctor
Yellow or green mucus can mean a bacterial infection. Even then, acute bacterial sinusitis usually clears up in seven to 14 days — without antibiotic treatment. But if you keep feeling worse and symptoms are persistent and severe, or if you get a fever, it’s time to see a doctor.
Chronic Sinusitis Treatment Still a Puzzle
Chronic sinusitis is very difficult to treat. A first step is controlling predisposing factors such as eliminating environmental irritants. For symptom relief, doctors often prescribe nasal steroid sprays or antibiotics, but neither is proven to work in comprehensive studies. Surgery — functional endoscopic sinus surgery or FESS — offers at least moderate relief — but this is not intended as first-line treatment for chronic sinusitis.
Sinusitis Complications: Worst-Case Scenarios
Only a layer of bone separates your sinuses from your brain. If a sinus infection passes through the bone, it can infect the lining of the brain — meningitis — or even the brain itself. Both problems are life threatening. A sinus infection can also spread into the orbit of the eye, causing an infection around the eye and possibly blindness. Less severe complications include asthma attacks and loss of smell or taste.
There’s no sure way to avoid either acute or chronic sinusitis. But here are some things that can help: Keep sinuses moist – use saline sprays, nasal lubricant sprays, or nasal irrigation often. Avoid very dry indoor environments. Avoid exposure to irritants, such as cigarette smoke or strong chemical odors.
(Reviewed by Kimball Johnson, MD)
Sinus Problems : Home Remedies And Tips
Do you have sinus problems? Here’s how to make your home kinder to your sinuses…
There’s a lot you can do around the house to create a “sinus-friendly” environment — reducing your risk for sinus pressure. Even better, many of the measures are simple and inexpensive.
Sinus Problems: Getting to the Triggers
First, it’s crucial to figure out why you have sinus problems, says Jordan S. Josephson, MD, a Manhattan ear-nose-throat specialist and author of Sinus Relief Now. “Allergies are a fairly common reason for sinus problems,” he says…Mucus, which typically drains from the sinuses to the nose, can’t drain. Other reasons? “A dry nose leads to more sinus problems,” says Richard F. Lavi, MD, an allergist in Twinsburg, Ohio. “Nasal dryness leads to congestion, thickened mucus, and worsened sinusitis.” Whatever the trigger, you can pick and choose from these five tips, or adopt all of them.
Sinus Tip 1: Keep Your Cool
“When the heat is on, the membranes get dry,” says Russell B. Leftwich, MD, an allergist in Nashville, Tenn. Mucus isn’t cleared as effectively, boosting the risk of sinus problems…
Sinus Tip 2: Humidify Your Air
Strive for an indoor environment that’s not too dry and not too humid. “Dust mites love greater than 50 per cent humidity,” Lavi warns. And if you’re allergic to dust mites, that’s bad news for your sinuses. Experts are divided on the value of room humidifiers for creating a sinus-friendly home… Vaporizers can keep you more comfortable if you are in the midst of a sinus problem, Leftwich says.
Tip 3: Ventilate Your House
An energy-efficient house is not necessarily a sinus-friendly one, Leftwich says. “You seal up a house to make it more energy efficient, and you end up with stale air that aggravates sinus problems,” he says.
Sinus Tip 4: Be Water-Wise
Drinking a lot of fluids can help keep your sinuses functioning well. “At least a quart a day” is the recommendation of Leftwich. Most of that should be plain water, he says.
“The more the better,” says Josephson. He tells his patients to drink enough water every day so their urine is generally clear. Salt water nasal rinses for your nose can help, too…Neti pots are another way to irrigate your nasal cavities, Josephson suggests. This centuries-old remedy has gained popularity recently.
Sinus Tip 5: Avoid Household Irritants
Cigarette smoke, cleaning products, hairspray, and other materials that give off fumes can all make your sinus problems worse…If you’re sensitive to pet dander, bathe or clean your pets weekly, says Lavi. As difficult as it is for pet owners, limiting exposure to your animals at night can help.
(Reviewed By Michael W. Smith, MD)