Many people don’t know this, but a sinus is actually a hollow space or cavity filled with either blood or water. There are a number of sinuses in our entire body. They are present in bones, as well as in different tissues and organs. However, the sinuses that are most familiar to man are the paranasal sinuses, which are four pairs of cavities found in the bones of our faces. We are more familiar with the paranasal sinus because that’s where common sinus problems emerge.
Several disorders afflict the paranasal sinuses, the most common among which is sinusitis. Sinusitis is a problem caused by the inflammation of the tissues that line our sinuses. It may be brought about by an allergic reaction to something, by the inhalation of irritating substances, like gases, fumes and other kinds of pollutants, or via a bacterial or viral infection.
The cells that line our sinuses produced mucus that exit into the nose via the openings that connect the sinus to the nasal passageways, those who have small openings are the most prone to sinus problems that emerge from poor drainage.
Poor drainage may be caused by the inflammation of the mucus membranes lining the sinuses, which cause swelling and, thereby, blockage to the openings. Because of this, the chance of an infection is greater and becomes more difficult to address.
Most people with mild sinus irritations have a postnasal drip, nasal discharge, or both, sometimes accompanied by sinus headache and congestion. These symptoms usually can be relieved with aspirin or other mild analgesics, antihistamines (when allergy is involved), or nasal decongestants to shrink the inflamed passageways and allow for better drainage.
More serious sinus problems occur when the sinuses become infected. When the infection is due to a virus as part of an upper respiratory infection the symptoms are usually mild and disappear in just a few days. However, bacterial infection may complicate a cold or upper respiratory infection or may arise – especially in the maxillary sinuses – from infection in the teeth, or as a result of fracture during dental extraction.
An acute sinus infection usually causes local pain, tenderness, often accompanied by swelling, and fever. X-rays will tell us that the air in the sinus has been replaced by fluid or mucus. When this happens, antibiotic treatment is often the recourse, but the sinuses may have to be irrigated first (sometimes, even surgically done).
Untreated sinus problems may lead to serious complications, like bone infections, or infections of the tissues around the eye, meningitis, or brain abscess. Chronic infections may also lead to chronic postnasal drip and congestion. Thus, it is recommended that people suffering from such chronic sinus problems also stay away from smoking and being exposed to too much pollutants to avoid triggering sinusitis.
A lot of people often dismiss headaches as simply nothing and just resort to analgesics and other kinds of painkillers to relieve the discomforts they feel. However, if the condition becomes chronic, or recurs, it should not be taken for granted, as it could be the onset of something grave, like a serious sinus problem.
Television commercials often say that sinusitis can be cured with simple medications alone. While there is also truth to this, it is still best for you to consult your physician if the discomforts and the pain become unbearable.
Actually, you shouldn’t even wait for the pain to escalate to emergency levels before you see your doctor. An ounce of prevention is greater than a pound of cure, as the saying goes. When you notice the signs, don’t hesitate to go to the doctor and find out if you have a growing sinus problem or not.