Sinusitis is inflammation (swelling) of the lining of the sinuses, caused by a viral or bacterial infection.
The sinuses are small, air-filled cavities behind your cheekbones and forehead. Sinusitis typically causes a high temperature, facial pain, and a blocked or runny nose. It is a common condition and can affect people of any age.
You have four sets of sinuses:
- Two sinuses behind your forehead
- Two at either side of the bridge of your nose
- Two behind your eyes
- Two behind your cheekbones
Your sinuses open up into the cavity of your nose and help control the temperature and water content of the air reaching your lungs. Usually, the mucus naturally produced by your sinuses drains into your nose through small channels. These channels can become blocked when the sinuses are infected and inflamed. It is the sinuses behind the cheekbones (the largest ones) that are most commonly affected.
Sinusitis is classed as either:
- Acute: when it develops quickly (over a few days) following a cold or flu and clears up within 12 weeks
- Chronic: when symptoms last for more than 12 weeks. Chronic sinusitis is less common and can sometimes last for many months
What Are The Symptoms Of Sinusitis?
The most common symptoms of sinusitis include:
- A blocked or runny nose. If your nose produces green or yellow mucus, you probably have a bacterial infection
- Pain and soreness in the face (near the infected sinuses). You may experience toothacheor pain in your jaw when you eat or a throbbing pain that is worse when you move your head
- A high temperature
Other possible symptoms include:
- A sinus headache
- A cough
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Pressure in your ears
- Loss of taste and smell
- A feeling of being generally unwell
What Causes Sinusitis?
The most common cause of sinusitis is the common cold or influenza (flu). The cold or flu virus spreads to the sinuses from the upper airways. Sometimes, a secondary bacterial infection can develop, leading to swelling inside the sinuses. An infected tooth may also cause the sinuses to become infected.
A fungal infection can be acute and very rapidly progress into chronic allergic fungal infection.
There are a number of other factors that can make the sinuses more vulnerable to infection. These include:
- Substances that may irritate the sinuses, such as air pollution, smoke, chemicals (such as pesticides, disinfectants and household detergents)
- Allergies such as allergic rhinitis, asthma and hay fever
- Anything that causes narrowing of the nose passages, such as facial injuries or nasal polyps (growths) inside the nose. Mucus can build up behind the narrowed areas, leading to sinus infection
- Cystic fibrosis, a genetic condition that causes thick, sticky mucus to build up within the body, making you prone to infections
How Is Sinusitis Diagnosed?
Sinusitis is diagnosed based on the presence of:
- nasal blockage or runny nose with facial pain, and/or
- a reduction or loss of sense of smell
Diagnostic tests include:
- Diagnostic Nasal Endoscopy (DNE): A thin tube with a lens is passed along the nasal cavity to visualize the openings of sinuses into the nose
- X-ray or CT scan to find out the cause of your sinusitis
What Is The Treatment For Sinusitis?
- Antibiotics:If your symptoms are severe and your sinusitis has not cleared within seven days, your doctor may prescribe you antibiotics. About one third of people with sinusitis develop a bacterial infection that requires antibiotics.
- Steroid sprays or drops: Steroid sprays, drops are usually prescribed if you are diagnosed with chronic sinusitis, as they can help relieve your swollen sinuses.
- Surgery: If your symptoms do not improve after a course of antibiotics, and you are still experiencing difficulties with your affected sinuses, functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS) may be recommended. This is the most common operation for sinusitis and can be successful in relieving the symptoms. FESS is usually done under general anesthetic, but it can also be done under local anesthetic. The surgeon will insert an endoscope into your nose to see the opening of your sinus drainage channels. Then the surgeon will either remove any tissues, such as nasal polyps (growths), which are blocking the affected sinus or enlarge the openings and aid easy drainage of the affected sinuses.