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What is Sinusitis?

  • The paranasal sinuses are air-filled cavities within the bones of the skull. These sinuses connect to the nose through narrow openings lined with a mucous membrane. There are four pairs of sinuses: the maxillary – inside each cheek bone, the ethmoid – just behind the bridge of the nose and between the eyes, frontal – over the eyes and the brow area and sphenoids – in the upper region of the nose and behind the eyes.
  • Infants are born with small maxillary and ethmoid sinuses. The frontal sinuses (over the eyes) and the sphenoid sinuses (beneath the brain) develop at the respective ages of seven and twelve.
  • Inflammation in any of the eight paranasal sinuses is called sinusitis. Sinusitis is one of the most frequent complications of the “common cold”. Acute sinusitis can be a secondary bacterial infection after a common cold.
  • 85 percent of all “colds” or upper respiratory tract infections produce a viral sinusitis. Most of the time, these viral sinusitis infections clear within seven to ten days. In essence, it is a cold, that doesn’t go away.
  • Adults contract approximately three colds per year and children approximately eight colds per year. Colds can last up to two (2) weeks. One out of every 200 colds is followed by bacterial sinusitis. Therefore, sinusitis is quite common.
  • There are 35 million office visits for sinusitis in the United States yearly at a cost of approximately three billion dollars.
  • Bacterial infection often follows a viral infection of the sinuses. The virus enters the nose. As a defense mechanism, white blood cells rush to the lining of the nose. These swell and congest the passages of the nose and sinuses trapping air and mucus.

Causes

  • Allergic rhinitis is the most common cause of chronic sinusitis and a frequent cause of acute sinusitis.
  • Cigarette smoke, air pollution and possibly drinking alcohol can cause the nasal and sinus membranes to swell.
  • Chlorine treated water in swimming pools irritates the nose and sinuses, especially for divers as water is forced into sinuses from the nose.
  • Air travel and changes in air pressure in the sinuses may also contribute to sinusitis.
  • Swelling in the nose, along with trapped air, mucus and occasionally pus may cause pressure and pain in the sinuses.

Symptoms

The symptoms of sinusitis often resemble those of the common cold and allergy. Table 1 shows some of the differences.

 

Symptom Allergy Cold Sinusitis
Sneezing Sometimes Yes No
Nasal congestion Sometimes Yes Yes
Coughing Sometimes Yes Yes
Bad breath No No Sometimes
Pain in the face or teeth Rarely Rarely Yes
Fever No Sometimes Sometimes
Nasal discharge Watery, thin or clear Thick or Thin Thick, green or yellow
Duration of illness Varies Less than 10 days Often more than 10 days
Post-nasal drip Yes Yes Yes
Table 1: Symptoms of Colds, Allergy and Sinusitis

Treatment for Sinusitis

There are many options for treatment, we will find the best one suited for you.