Sinus Infections | Facts about Sinusitis | How to Deal With It

Facts about Sinusitis and How to Deal With It

Sinusitis infection is the inflammation/swelling of the lining of sinuses and is associated with viral infections. This inflammation can block the passages in the sinuses where slimy fluid (mucus) is produced to keep the nose moistened. It is painful when mucus starts to pile up in the nasal openings because of the increased pressure inside them. An acute sinusitis infection (caused by allergies) can last up to 3 weeks while chronic sinus infection (usually caused by the viral and bacterial infections) can last up to 10 weeks. Acute Sinusitis is very common, affecting 1 every 10 people around the world each year. The overall feeling of having a sinusitis is like having a runny and stuffy nose and headache combined.

Understanding sinus infection can be better by knowing what sinuses are:

Sinuses are hollowed air spaces located in the bones behind the upper face. The mucus membrane lining of sinuses is almost identical with the linings in the nose. This membrane produces layers of mucus (slimy secretion) that help in keeping the nasal passages clean and it also helps in trapping bacteria and other foreign materials. These layers assist in driving out the trapped pollutants out of the nasal passages through mucus drainage.

The mucous membrane produced by the linings of nose and sinuses acts as human’s natural air filter. It helps in giving moisture and warmth to the air. It has tiny hairs that act like a sweeper or an oar that move the mucus out of the nasal passages. But the most important role of this membrane is it acts as one of the body’s first line of defenses. It releases chemical when it senses foreign particles and certain types of viruses and bacteria.

These groups of hollowed air spaces have four pairs of openings and they are called sinus cavities. Maxillary sinuses are near the cheekbones, sphenoid sinuses are at the back of the nose and between the eyes, frontal sinuses are located in the forehead just above the eyebrows, and ethmoid sinuses are located between the eye sockets. Sinuses are as large as pea in the infancy stage of a child and it can be as large as walnut when they reach adulthood. Until now, most researchers and experts still don’t know the real purpose of sinus. Some say that it helps in making the skull lighter and some say that it exists to produce special mucus that is different from what is produced by the linings in the nose.

Below are the types of Sinusitis:

    • Maxillary Sinus – People who have this illness become vulnerable to infection because of blocked mucus flow. Oral infections like bleeding gums and dental cavities are the most common causes of Maxillary Sinusitis. If not detected in its initial stage, the symptoms can be severe. The symptoms include a chronic headache, nasal congestion, post nasal drip, facial pain and bad breath. It is the most common type of sinusitis infection that affects almost 1/3 of US population.
  • Frontal Sinus – Those who have this medical condition feel pain and headache-causing pressure in the area behind the eyes. It causes an inflammation of the nasal passages that leads to mucus accumulation. Patients with this illness have a hard time sleeping because the pain worsens when they move their heads constantly. Other symptoms of Frontal Sinusitis are difficulty in breathing, severe cough, high fever, upper-jaw pain and disrupted sense of taste and smell.
  • Ethmoid Sinus– This medical condition causes pain around and between the eyes. The most common reason why a person acquires an ethmoid sinusitis infection is the formation of bacteria in the mucous membrane lining just above the nose. Symptoms of this infection include regular headache in the temples, postnasal drip and nasal congestion. These symptoms can last up to 10 days and if not treated immediately, it can lead to serious problems like permanent blindness and orbital cellulitis (eye socket infection).
  • Sphenoid Sinus– This is accounted for 3% of all the sinusitis infection cases, making it the least common sinus condition. People who have this condition experience pain in the back part of their nose. Unlike most of the infections, this illness does not cause fever but it causes severe earache. It is also very difficult to treat because sphenoid sinus is almost near the brain. Antibiotics don’t work most of the time because the sphenoid sinus does not get its nourishment from the bloodstream.Sinusitis Infection infographics

Two general types of sinusitis Infection:

Acute Sinusitis:

This condition is just a mild form of a sinus infection. There are various temporary treatments that can relieve its symptoms but most of the time it goes away without taking any medication. Acute sinusitis develops rapidly and lasts only for a short period of time. Most of its cases last only for a week but if not treated, it can lead to complications like meningitis or thrombosis (abnormal clotting of brain’s blood vessels).

It is also easy to develop an acute sinusitis infection after acquiring a cold or flu. Viruses that caused colds and other related respiratory problems may spread to the sinuses.

Other risk factors of Acute Sinusitis include:

  • Allergy – It may cause inflammation of the tissues in the mucous membrane lining of the nose and disrupt the ability of the sinuses to drain mucus. Mucous that piles up near the lining makes sinuses more susceptible to infection and gives breathing problems.
  • Smoking – Smoking affects all the parts of the human respiratory system. This vice can damage the delicate tiny-hair like structures (cilia) found in the membranes of the sinuses that help in draining the mucus.

What are the symptoms of acute sinus infection?

  • Runny nose – A yellowish or greenish discharge signals that a person has a bacterial infection in the sinuses.
  • Fever – This is the common symptom of an infection. Fever is an indicator that the body is fighting foreign substances.
  • Pain in the affected area – It is caused by the blockage due to the accumulation of the mucus in the sinuses. Chewing and moving the head constantly can worsen the pain.

Chronic Sinusitis:

It is a medical condition in which the tissues and cavities around the nasal openings became swollen because of mucus accumulation. It can last up to 11 weeks or longer if not treated immediately. It is hard to chew if someone has this kind of infection because the area around the eyes and cheeks may feel heavy and swollen. This sinusitis infection mostly affects adults aged 20 -45, but there are some instances that children have this type of infection. Nasal tumors and fractures contribute to the obstruction of sinus drainage that leads to chronic sinusitis infection.

Other risk factors for Chronic Sinusitis include:

  • Excessive swimming – It may sound weird but studies show that chlorine is an irritant that causes different types of allergies.
  • Dry air – People breathing dry air are at risk of having respiratory ailments like asthma, bronchitis, and sinusitis. Dry air triggers nasal congestion that makes an excessive buildup of fluid in the sinus and nose linings.

What are the symptoms of chronic sinusitis infection?

The common symptom of this infection is a painful and stinging pressure in the upper parts of the face (near the nose). Usually, the pain in the sinus feels like a toothache. Other symptoms also include postnasal drip and halitosis.

Having sinus infection can be very annoying especially to those people working in the office. That’s why it is better to prevent it or find a cure immediately before it branches out to many serious ailments.

How to prevent sinusitis?

  1. Health experts say that most cases of sinus infections are due to an allergic reaction to different agents like dust, pollen, and molds. The best way to prevent sinusitis infections is by treating allergies and common colds.
  2. Drinking plenty of water every day helps in strengthening the immune system. A minimum of 7 glasses of water can do great wonders for the body.
  3. Humidifiers and air-conditioners help prevent nasal disorders because the functions of sinuses work well when the air is humid.
  4. Eliminate smoking habit as early as possible. Cigarette contains thousands of harmful chemicals that can weaken the immune and respiratory system.
  5. Water diving activities should be lessened as much as possible. Divers are very prone to nasal congestion because, in diving, the water is forced to enter into the nasal passages. Constant water pressure in the nose can cause irritation in the sinuses.
  6. Try to inhale steam – This steam treatment can help in breaking up the nasal congestion because of its moisture.
  7. Avoid polluted environment – This is a hard task to do because almost all of the cities in the world are densely populated and the air is no longer safe as compared years ago. Exposure to a contaminated environment can cause irritation to the nasal openings. It’s now time to start purifying the surroundings.

These are just some of the possible ways to prevent getting a sinus infection. But what are best things to do if the sinus infection is already in the body?

Sinusitis Infection Treatment:

  1. Inhaling nasal sprays are helpful especially if someone needs an instant relief. It can be used without doctor’s prescription. Nasal sprays with corticosteroids are known to relieve nasal swelling and mucous membrane lining inflammation. But keep in mind that using nasal sprays for more than 4 days are harmful to the sinuses. If the symptoms still persist after using sprays for 2 days, it is better to stop it immediately.
  2. Combat sinusitis infection with hydration – Water is still included in the list because it is the cheapest but the most helpful fluid that can lubricate the mucus membranes. Not all liquid can help in sinus infections because milk increases the volume and density of the mucus making the condition worse.
  3. Medication is the best cure for sinus infection especially for chronic sinusitis. Antibiotics like amoxicillin can kill the bacteria that are trapped by mucus in the sinuses. In case of extreme facial pain, analgesics like ibuprofen can be helpful. For breathing problems because of massive mucus buildup in the nasal passages, taking mucolytics like guaifenesin can solve the problem.
  1. Try the organic alternatives – Grapefruit Seed Extract is a popular alternative to medicines. It does not taste good but it possesses antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties. Its antioxidant can help in cleansing the body and in producing more antibodies. Drinking apple cider vinegar can help in reducing the nutrient deficiencies in the body. The vinegar soothes deeply into the nasal cavities giving a relief and gives the same feeling when someone eats a menthol leaf.
  2. When all the possible solutions above fail and sinus infection is not getting better, it’s time to see a doctor. A sinus infection can’t be ignored because it can lead to various complications. Some people who have severe cases of this infection go for the option of having a surgery just to give them a permanent relief. The doctors open up the blocked part of the sinuses and clean them, removing the tissues inflamed due to irritation. But even after surgery, there is still a need to monitor it every 3 months because there is a chance that the sinus infection is going to come back. Endoscopic surgery is the standard type of surgery in treating chronic sinusitis but in most cases, traditional surgery is the best method to use. Though, it poses many risks compared to endoscopic, traditional surgery is the closest solution in giving patients permanent relief from sinus infection.
    Important Note: Surgery is required to those who still have symptoms of sinusitis after they have taken antibiotics for the recommended period of time. Overdosing can make bacteria entering the body resistant to antibodies.

Sinusitis is very difficult to detect at first because its symptoms are almost identical to the symptoms of common cold and flu-like illnesses. That’s why it is very essential to be observant and alert. Also, it is very important to take note that every disease can be prevented by being responsible to the body.

 

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