Many people have experienced the pain, tenderness and discomfort associated with sinusitis.1a, 2a While it sometimes goes away by itself, if symptoms persist, without treatment sinusitis can become serious.1b
What is sinusitis and what causes it?
The sinuses are a connected system of air-filled cavities (pockets) behind the forehead, nose, cheeks and eyes. Each sinus has an opening that connects it to the nasal passages.3a
How the sinuses work
The main purpose of the sinuses is to produce a thin watery mucous that keeps the inside of the nose moist to protect it from pollutants, micro-organisms, dust and dirt.3b When the sinuses are healthy, the air circulates freely through the sinus cavities. Cilia (tiny hairs) move the watery mucous through the sinuses, draining it down the back of the throat.3c,4a When your sinuses drain freely they stay clean, preventing mucous buildup.
How sinusitis develops
The medical term for sinusitis is rhinosinusitis, a common condition that occurs when the mucous that protects the inside of the nose becomes thickened and cannot drain properly. As a result, your sinuses and nasal passages become congested (restricted or blocked) resulting in inflammation, swelling, or infection. 2b, 5a Sinusitis can be triggered by an allergy, bacteria or a virus.6a
Types of sinusitis:
- Acute sinusitis typically lasts 1 to 4 weeks
- Subacute sinusitis typically lasts 4 to 12 weeks
- Chronic sinusitis typically lasts around 12 weeks or more
- Recurrent sinusitis occurs in episodes throughout the year7a, 8
Who is at risk?
Anyone can develop sinusitis. However, there are certain health conditions and factors that increase your risk including:
- Allergies such as hay fever
- A respiratory tract infection such as a cold
- A deviated nasal septum – when the septum (thin wall between the nostrils) is crooked or off-centre and causes a restriction or blockage
- A growth such as a nasal polyp or tumour that can cause a restriction or blockage
- Swollen adenoids (glands behind the nose and above the mouth)
- Facial bone abnormalities such as a cleft palate
- A weakened immune system from the prolonged use of medication and / or from a chronic illness such as diabetes, cystic fibrosis, or HIV/Aids
- Regular exposure to pollutants for example, cigarette smoke and strong chemicals1c, 7b, 9, 10
While a 2017 national health survey showed more than 30 million cases are diagnosed annually (approximately 12% of the total population), the actual figure of people affected by sinusitis may be as high as 40 million.11
Signs and symptoms
Signs and symptoms vary, with pain in the facial area being the most common.
Typical symptoms include:
- Discoloured (yellow or greenish) discharge from the nose or down the back of the throat
- Nasal congestion or obstruction, causing difficulty breathing through your nose
- Pain, tenderness and pressure around your eyes, cheeks, nose or forehead that worsens when you bend over 2c, 12a
Other symptoms may include:
- Ear pressure
- Frontal headache
- Ache in your upper jaw and pain in your teeth
- Reduced sense of smell and taste
- Cough, which might worsen at night
- Halitosis (bad breath)
Not all sinus problems are symtomatic of sinusitis. Sinus infection, cold and allergy symptoms can overlap. For example, nasal congestion can also be symtomatic of a cold or allergy. Colds and allergies transform into sinusitis when the sinuses become swollen 1d,2d,12
Diagnosis and treatment
Diagnosis generally begins with your doctor identifying your symptoms and conducting a physical examination. He or she may also recommend that you see an otolaryngologist (ear, throat and nose specialist).
Treatment can vary considerably depending on how long you have had symptoms and their severity. As a result, getting an accurate diagnosis is important so that your doctor or specialist can recommend the most appropriate treatment for your particular situation.4b 13a
While the symptoms for acute and chronic sinusitis may be similar: acute sinusitis symptoms are usually less severe, the condition is usually caused by a cold, and self-care at home is often all that is required to treat it. However, if it persists, a bacterial infection may develop (leading to chronic sinusitis), for which your docotr will likely prescribe an antibiotic. Chronic sinusitis is sometimes more difficult to treat because of the higher inflammation levels in the sinuses. 12c,14
if your symptoms are mild and appear to be getting better you can usually take care of your sinusitis at home.
To relieve swelling and congestion:
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Use a humidifier
- Take over-the-counter nasal decongestants to relieve swelling
- Apply hot or cold packs to relieve pain and discomfort or take hot showers
- Use a nasal saltwater rinse to rinse your nasal passages
- Use a nasal saline spray to keep your sinuses and nose moist
When to see your doctor
Medical attention may be required if:
- Your symptoms persist after 7 to 10 days
- Your symptoms are severe or get worse
- You have a fever or a bad headache
- You have sinus problems that recur throughout the year4c, 6b
In rare cases, an untreated sinus infection could develop into:
- Meningitis (infection of the fine membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord)
- Brain abscess (infection in the brain)
- Osteomyelitis (infection of the bone)
- Orbital cellulitis (infection of the eye tissue in the eye socket)5b, 7c
Lifestyle changes to reduce your risk
Most sinus infections develop from colds or allergies. A healthy lifestyle can reduce your exposure to germs and allergens and may even prevent sinusitis. Healthy lifestyle habits include:2e
- Washing your hands frequently
- Keeping your body hydrated by drinking lots of water every day
- Getting more rest if you feel a cold coming on
- Finding out what you are allergic to and then take steps to minimise your exposure to allergens (substances that trigger your allergies)
- Quitting smoking
- Avoiding drinking too much alcohol or coffee4d
How Sinucon can help relieve sinusitis
Drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated, taking hot showers, using humidifiers, and applying hot or cold packs to the facial area may help to relieve sinusitis. However, these solutions are not always practical.
Sinucon nasal drops are an easy to use, over-the-counter alternative for treating most sinusitis conditions. Two drops in each nostril every 4 hours can help to relieve sinus and nasal congestion, allowing you to breathe easier, feel better, and improve your quality of life.
Please note: This is educational information only and should not be used for diagnosis. For more information on sinusitis, consult your healthcare professional.
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