Sinusitis is the inflammation of the mucous membrane that lines the air cavities within the sinuses.
This is often referred to as a sinus infection, or rhinosinusitis, and it is extremely common, especially in areas that experience high rates of air pollution. As the mucous membranes become inflamed and obstructed, the sinus cavities fill with fluid. These pockets of fluid create an ideal environment for various bacteria which increases the chance of infection.
If infection does occur or the immune system has to respond to an abundance of foreign bodies in this region, the area will again become inflamed and the cycle will likely repeat.
There are two types of sinusitis: acute sinusitis and chronic sinusitis. Sinusitis is typically considered to be acute if it only lasts a few days or up to a few weeks. However, if the sinusitis symptoms persist for more than twelve weeks, it is typically considered chronic sinusitis. Some people don't have chronic sinusitis, but for various reasons may experience acute sinusitis with an abnormal frequency. If an individual is diagnosed with acute sinusitis more than four times in a single year, they will likely be deemed to have recurring acute sinusitis.
What Causes Sinusitis?
It isn’t always possible to determine the exact cause of a case of sinusitis, but there seems to be both environmental and biological components. Individuals who have a deviated septum are more prone to sinusitis because their nasal passages are more narrow. People who have certain genetic variations, such as cystic fibrosis and immune system deficiencies, are more susceptible to sinus infection. Additionally, as many as one third of all people with asthma will also have sinusitis. On the other hand, environmental risks include high pollution rates and exposure to allergens such as dander, pollen, dust mites, and mold. In general, sinusitis rates have been rising with increased urbanization and antibiotic resistance.
What Are The Symptoms Of Sinusitis?
The primary complaint when sinusitis is present is congestion. As the mucous membranes become inflamed, they block a large portion of the air flow through the nasal passages. This can make it difficult to breathe or sleep. Another one of the primary symptoms associated with sinusitis is pressure. Since there is mucous membrane inflammation and fluid build up, people will likely feel like there is pressure on the sinus cavities around their nose. This pressure can also lead to headaches. As the body attempts to relieve the pressure and eliminate any infection, it will push the mucous out, resulting in nasal discharge. Patients may also report experiencing a fever, cough as a result of drainage, earaches, and a decreased sense of smell.
Is Sinusitis Treatable?
Sinusitis is very treatable with the proper medication. Over-the-counter options include decongestants, mucolytics, and acetaminophen. Decongestants often relieve pressure and help with breathing because they reduce the inflammation of the nasal passageways. Mucolytics help thin the mucous and make it easier to get rid of, which will help eliminate any infection and reduce pressure. Acetaminophen can reduce both pain and fever to provide relief. While these medications can certainly help with symptom relief, it may be wise to consult a physician in order to prevent secondary infection and to make sure that the illness isn't actually something more serious. If the physician determines that it is sinusitis, they will likely prescribe an antibiotic, which have shown to be successful in treating sinus infections.