Have you ever had a cold that would not go away or a cold that suddenly got worse after it started getting better? If so, there’s a good chance you had sinusitis, a condition wherein a viral or bacterial infection affects the sinuses. According to a study by the American Academy of Otolaryngology, over 37 million Americans suffer from at least one episode of sinusitis annually, making it one of the most common health-related conditions in the country today.
What are the sinuses?
Sinuses are air-filled or hollow spaces located within the bones of your face that connect to the nasal cavity through small narrow channels. They are lined with mucous membranes that produce mucus – a secretion that keeps the nasal passageways moist in order to catch dust particles and bacteria.
There are four pairs of sinuses that are classified according to the bone in which they are found.
- Maxillary Sinuses:These are the largest of the sinuses and are located in the cheekbones or upper jaws.
- Frontal Sinuses:These are found in the lower center of the forehead or above the eye bones.
- Sphenoid Sinuses:These cavities are located in the bones behind the eyeballs or the nasal cavity.
- Ethmoid Sinuses: These are located in the ethmoid bone that separates the nasal cavity from the brain. The ethmoid sinuses are a collection of 6-12 small air cells that open autonomously into the nasal cavity.
What is sinusitis?
Sinusitis, also known as rhinosinusitis, is an inflammation or swelling of the lining of the sinuses. Sinusitis typically occurs when viruses, bacteria, fungi, and other pathogens infect the sinuses (often during a cold) and start to multiply. As part of the body’s response to the infection, the sinus lining begins to swell, obstructing the channels that drain the sinuses. This, in turn, causes mucus to congest the nasal and sinus cavities.
There are different types of sinusitis depending on the time span of the infection and the type of inflammation.
- Acute Sinusitis: Also termed as acute bacterial rhinosinusitis, its symptoms last less than four weeks. Most cases begin as a common cold, but symptoms often leave within ten days.
- Sub-Acute Sinusitis: Symptoms usually last for 4-8 weeks.
- Chronic Sinusitis: Also known as chronic rhinosinusitis, it is characterized by sinus inflammation symptoms that last eight weeks or longer. Asthmatic patients or individuals with allergic rhinitis are more prone to suffer from chronic sinusitis.
- Recurrent Sinusitis: This type of sinusitis is defined by three or more episodes per year with each episode lasting less than two weeks.
What are the signs and symptoms of sinusitis?
Since some sinusitis symptoms are similar to those of a common cold, many people don’t know that they have sinusitis until the symptoms become uncomfortable and unbearable. Sinusitis symptoms, whether acute or chronic, usually follow after a cold or during times of severe allergic rhinitis symptoms.
Sinusitis symptoms can include:
- Pain: Pain is the most typical symptom of sinusitis and the most unpleasant. If the channels that interlink the sinuses to your nasal passages become clogged or infected, they cannot drain properly. This causes inflammation and swelling of the sinuses causing pain and heaviness on your face due to increased pressure on your nerves.
- Congestion: Due to increase in mucus production during inflammation, membranes become swollen and congested. These secretions may thicken overtime and may even block the Eustachian tube leading to ear blockage. In addition, nasal airway congestion can result in difficulty breathing.
- Headaches: The congestion and swelling in your sinuses can cause you to involuntarily tighten the muscles around your forehead, causing frequent headaches.
- Yellow or Green Mucus: Yellow or green mucus in the nose or dripping down the back of your throat is another sign of a sinus infection. This discoloration is caused by white blood cells fighting the infection and can stick around for weeks.
- Tooth Pain: While your teeth may ache when you have a sinus infection, this should not be confused with a dental problem. The buildup of pressure in your head only makes it feel this way.
- Bad Breath: The colored discharge that builds up at the back of your throat can cause halitosis, otherwise known as bad breath.
- Loss of Sense of Smell or Taste: While you can detect sweet or salty foods, more subtle smells or tastes may become hard to distinguish with sinusitis.
If you are struggling with any of the above symptoms, you might be suffering from sinusitis. At DFW Sinus Select, we offer premier medical care to those living in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metropolitan area. Our highly trained physicians can diagnose the cause of your sinusitis and tailor treatment options designed for your needs. Contact us to schedule your appointment today.