Sinus Headaches

Understanding Sinusitis


Sinusitis is a commonly used word not only in medical, but also in everyday terminology. Often many people wonder, what is sinusitis?  However, before we can proceed to understanding sinusitis, let us understand what sinuses are.

Sinuses are hollow spaces in the cheekbones and forehead, comprising the upper respiratory system of the human body. Maxillary, frontal, ethmoid and sphenoid are the four groups of sinus cavities found in all adults. Each sinus cavity opens into the nose to facilitate drainage of the mucus produced.

What is sinusitis?
Sinusitis is a condition characterized by an inflammation of the sinuses, caused due to an infection or an allergic reaction. The infection may be viral, bacterial or fungal in nature. If sinusitis is caused due to bacteria or virus, it can be infectious. However if it has been caused by an allergic reaction, it is non-infectious.

Sinusitis may affect one or a few or all of the sinus cavities. This disease obstructs the normal sinus drainage system of the body, leading to excessive mucus secretion and interfering with usual sinus ventilation.

Sinusitis is in most cases preceded by cold, allergic reaction or irritation due to the presence of environmental pollutants. Examples of some other causes are exposure to tobacco, exposure to smoke or dust, asthma, weak or deficient immune system and cystic fibrosis.

Common symptoms of this disease include coughing, wheezing, headache, a feeling of pressure, facial swelling, fatigue, postnasal drip, nasal constriction and discharge, sore throat and a feeling of being unwell.

Sinusitis may be acute or chronic. The former condition flares up all of a sudden and is usually the  result of bacterial infection, in response to an allergic reaction, exposure to cold or exposure to environmental irritants. If acute sinusitis does not respond to medication and continues for twelve weeks or more, it is termed as chronic sinusitis.

Radiological tests like CT scans and X-rays are used to diagnose this disease. Oral antibiotics, corticosteroids, nasal drops, nasal wash, nasal spray, decongestants, pain relievers and inhalers are often used as a part of the treatment plan to treat this condition.

In case, the disease is complicated or severe, there may be a need to undertake surgical extraction of the accumulated debris and restore normal sinus ventilation and drainage.