What are sinuses?
Sinuses are open spaces in the face and head. There are 4 of them found in the human body known together as the paranasal sinuses. The maxillary sinuses are found behind the cheekbones, frontal sinuses are found behind the forehead and the sphenoid and ethmoid sinuses are found behind the nose/internal eyes.
Each of these drain into the nasal cavity and are lined with mucus-secreting cells. They have many functions including warming the air we breathe in, aiding vocalization by changing the quality of voice sounds and decreasing the weight of the head. They are also integral to our bodies immune system.
The mucus-secreting cells help to flush out any bacteria or debris that gets caught in the sinuses and bring them out of the body through the nose. This prevents this bacteria or virus from entering the body and causing symptoms or illness. When the sinuses get irritated or inflamed, swelling prevents them from draining properly resulting in congestion. This can lead to bacteria accumulating in the sinuses or a sinus infection. Inflammation in this area is known as sinusitis.
Sinusitis can become a sinus infection when bacteria or viruses get caught in this area. Sinus infections can either be acute or chronic sinusitis. Whether it is acute or chronic sinusitis it can often be treated with decongestants or nasal sprays. Chronic sinusitis can often be attributed to allergies and presents with allergy-like symptoms.
What is sinusitis?
Sinusitis, or a sinus infection, occurs when sinus congestion, i.e. mucus build-up, encourages bacteria and germs to grow in your sinus cavity, which in turn leads to bacteria growth or a viral infection.
Most cases of sinusitis are viral, going away in a week or two without treatment. However, if symptoms do not improve, the bacterial infection has most likely manifested and consultation by a healthcare practitioner is needed.
Cold or sinusitis (sinus infection)?
The common cold, a form of nonallergic rhinitis, is inflammation of the cells (epithelium) that line the nasal cavity and make up the nasal membrane. This can be from many different causes resulting in either infectious rhinitis or allergic rhinitis. Allergies such as hay fever are one of the most common causes of allergic rhinitis where viral infections are one of the most common causes of nonallergic rhinitis.
The common symptoms of the cold are nasal congestion, runny nose, coughing, sneezing, watering eyes, and fatigue. When the nasal epithelium gets inflamed it can spread to the air-filled cavities in the jaw, nose or forehead region. This can lead to the development of sinusitis and sinus congestion due to swelling of the mucous membranes. Together with rhinitis, this is called rhinosinusitis. The swollen mucous membranes obstruct the necessary drainage of the sinus secretion and can result in symptoms including sinus pressure or pain in the head and face, facial pain and sensitivity, increased mucous, nasal congestion, difficulty with nasal breathing, headaches, and heaviness in the head, voice changes as well as changes in smell and taste and bad breath.
When the sinuses can not drain properly from sinusitis it can lead to bacteria accumulating there causing a bacterial infection. Therefore, viral sinusitis or viral rhinitis can result in a bacterial infection called bacterial sinusitis or a sinus infection if it is not treated. This could lead to a need for antibiotics.
Acute sinusitis vs chronic sinusitis
Sinus infections can either be acute or chronic. Acute sinusitis is the type described above. It often arises from the common cold and blockage of the nasal passages resulting in excess sinus pressure, congestion and possible sinus infection. It can also affect the nasal passages leading to nasal congestion. Chronic sinusitis, on the other hand, is not associated with infection. It is also called chronic rhinosinusitis if it involves chronic rhinitis. In this condition, there is chronic inflammation of the epithelium in the sinuses and the nasal mucosa. This chronic inflammation and stimulation of the secretion of mucus epithelium result in excess mucus and the eventual production of nasal polyps.
Symptoms of chronic sinusitis or a sinus infection are like acute sinusitis however less intense and remain for a much longer period. This includes sinus pain in the form of a dull ache in the face, headaches, chronic nasal discharge and changes in the natural bacteria/flora found within the sinuses. This condition can also be associated with allergies.
Chronic sinusitis or sinus infections often needs more aggressive treatment than acute sinusitis such as antibiotics as it is a multi-symptom condition resulting from a complex interplay of genetic and lifestyle factors that makes someone more susceptible to the development of sinusitis. In extreme cases with nasal polyp formation sinus surgery might be needed.
Sinusitis: What now?
Commonly sinusitis is treated with decongestants (specifically nasal decongestants), antihistamines, antibiotics, pain relievers or nasal sprays that are prescribed or purchased over the counter. Some of these are mucolytics aimed to provide fast relief of nasal congestion, and sinus congestion. They also help with pain relief.
It is always useful to check in with a healthcare provider to make sure that you identify the cause of the sinus infection symptoms and find the appropriate treatment. Chronic sinus infections and specific sinus problems may require more comprehensive treatment options. Less common causes of sinus infections include postnasal drip, deviated septum, fungal infections etc..
However, there are many home remedies and home treatments that can also help to relieve the symptoms of both acute sinusitis and chronic sinusitis.
In traditional medicine, there are many plants prepared as botanicals or as homeopathic that have been shown to relieve the symptoms associated with sinusitis either chronically or acutely. Sponge cucumber (Luffa operculata) has been used since the early Colombian natives for its effects on mucous membranes. When prepared as a homeopathic it has been shown to decrease swellings associated with sinusitis. This is also true of other homeopathic Euphorbium and Kreosotum. In the complex remedy Sinupas®, Luffa operculata has been combined with the mucous membrane remedies Euphorbium and Kreosotum to provide congestion relief in an effective way.
Other tools to support the body in fighting off sinusitis include optimizing the immune system through a diet rich in fruits and vegetables as well as incorporating vital nutrients such as zinc and vitamin C. Alternating hot and cold showers can help support lymph movement through the body and enhance immune function. Nasal saline solutions can help flush out and cleanse the nasal cavity. This is called nasal irrigation. One over the counter form of a saline solution is known as a neti pot. Steam inhalations and increased humidity can help soothe irritated sinuses or a stuffy nose. A humidifier is one way to increase the humidity in your house or bedroom.
What is sinus congestion and inflammation?
Sinus congestion is when the membranes lining your nasal passage become inflamed or irritated. This can be caused by many things, including, colds, flu or allergies.
To combat this inflammation, your body begins to produce more mucus to help flush out the irritant. When you are congested, it is important to try different tactics to help moisten your nasal passage, such as using a humidifier, taking long hot showers, breathing steam from boiling water, drinking lots of fluids and keeping your head elevated, especially at night time.
Q: What kind of infection is sinusitis?
A: Sinusitis is inflammation with or without an additional infection of the paranasal sinus cavities that are found in the face and head. This can lead to swelling of the sinus passages so that they cannot drain into the nasal cavity. This can result in a sinus infection when bacteria gets stuck in this area.
Q: What are the symptoms of sinusitis?
A: Symptoms of sinusitis include congestion, increased mucus, sinus pain, possible sore throat, increased mucus and nasal discharge, bad breath, runny nose, facial pain, stuffy nose and sinus congestion. There can also be more systemic symptoms of an infection if one happens to be present.
Q: How does sinusitis affect your ears?
A: Within the face and head all the various systems are connected. This includes the ears, sinuses and nasal passages If one of these three areas gets inflamed or infected it can often lead to side effects in the other two areas because they are connected.