SINUSES are hollow chambers inside the nose and head that reduce the weight of the facial bones, give the bones shape and support, assist in mucus drainage from the nose, and help the voice resonate. Healthy sinuses are filled with air.

Sinusites is irritation of the sinuses for any reason. When their mucous membranes swell from allergies, irritants, the common cold, or other viral infection or another cause, the sinuses become blocked and they can fill with fluid, which easily leads to bacterial infection. Blocked, inflamed or infected sinuses can be very painful.

There are four groups of sinuses:

  • Maxillary, in the cheekbones
  • Ethmoid, along the nose
  • Frontal, above the eyes
  • Sphenoid, behind the ethmoids

Any or all of these may be involved in an allergy or sinus infection, so accordingly, discomfort may occur in many areas of the face and head, including the cheeks, eyes, forehead and teeth.

Sinusitis may be acute (short-term, as after a cold or flu) or chronic (more than 8-12 weeks). Bacterial sinusitis symptoms may include:

  • thick yellow or green discharge from the nose
  • facial pain
  • headache
  • fever

Symptoms of chronic sinusitis are less obvious and may include:

  • nasal blockage
  • congestion
  • post-nasal drip
  • reduced sense of smell
  • malaise

A diagnosis of sinusitis is made after a description of symptoms, a physical examination and potentially one or more imaging tests such as an x-ray, CT scan, or endoscopic examination under local anesthesia.

Treatment may include a nasal spray, antibiotic, corticosteroid or antihistamine. In some cases the patient may need to undergo surgery to clear obstructions to improve drainage, remove benign growths called polyps or realign a deviated septum.

Other causes of sinus-type pain may include, but, are not limited too:

  • chemical irritants
  • medications (including over the counter decongestant nasal sprays)
  • climate sensitivities
  • migraines
  • neck problems
  • eye problems
  • jaw joint problems (commonly called TMJ)

Nasal congestion also commonly occurs during pregnancy. Seeing a specialist can often avoid unnecessary medications including antibiotics.

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