The importance of healthy sinuses
One of the most common health problems in the country, sinusitis affects more than 37 million Americans every year occurring more frequently than asthma or heart disease. The symptoms of this condition often go beyond physical, with emotional and functional effects that impact quality of life more than congestive heart failure or chronic back pain.
How your sinuses work
It’s important to have a good understanding of the role your sinuses play within the context of your overall health.
Sinuses are the air spaces behind the bones of the upper face. They’re located between your eyes and behind your cheeks, nose, and forehead, and are lined with mucus. Your sinuses trap and push out pollutants and bacteria from the air that you breathe using tiny hairs on the surface of the cells, called cilia.
There is an opening in each sinus that allows mucous to drain—an essential function that keeps you healthy by ensuring that your sinuses work well. If the flow is obstructed, mucus can build up in the sinuses and trigger symptoms ranging from uncomfortable to severe.
What is sinusitis?
The basic definition of sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinus lining. This may be caused by infections from viruses, bacteria, or microbes, or by structural problems like ostial blockage.
Sinusitis is often brought on by a cold, an allergy attack, or pollutants that irritate the sinuses. It can cause a number of symptoms, from nasal congestion and discharge to headaches, facial discomfort, fatigue, and fever.
There are two types of sinusitis:
- Acute: Also called sudden onset, acute sinusitis is the most common type. This is an occasional infection of the sinuses brought on by the conditions mentioned above.
- Chronic: Frequent sinus infections or cases that last 12 weeks or more may indicate chronic sinusitis. Also called rhino sinusitis, this happens when the sinus linings become inflamed, which blocks the flow of mucus and causes buildup.
Sinusitis often clears up on its own, but there are several options to treat the symptoms. These include nasal sprays, decongestants, and over-the-counter pain relief medications.
For severe sinusitis, your doctor may prescribe a course of antibiotics. In some cases, allergies contribute to frequent or chronic sinusitis, and immunotherapy (allergy shots) can alleviate symptoms and lessen the occurrence of the condition.
Contact the ENT Center of Austin for more information on sinusitis, including the testing and treatment options offered at our three locations.