The sinuses are cavities located in the skull. There are four pairs of sinuses surrounding the nose and eyes that connect to the nasal cavity through small openings. The sinuses produce mucus which cleans the nose. Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinuses and is generally caused by an infection such as a cold or the flu that congests and blocks the opening between the sinuses and the nasal cavity. The mucus, trapped, congests the sinuses. This creates a highly conducive environment where viruses and bacteria can thrive and proliferate, leading to sinusitis. One person in 10 suffers from sinusitis each year. Sinusitis does not discriminate, it affects adults and children alike.
There are two types of sinusitis: acute sinusitis and chronic sinusitis. Acute sinusitis is the most common of the two and typically lasts two to three weeks. Since treatment does not always completely destroy all the bacteria, the infection may still be active even though the symptoms have disappeared. If such is the case, the infection will reappear rapidly and will often last longer (a few weeks to a few months). This is known as chronic sinusitis.
Sinusitis is often caused by another infection such as a cold, the flu or other viral infections causing nasal congestion. Other factors however, can increase the risk of developing sinusitis: allergies, nasal septum deviation (partition between the nostrils), smoking.
- reduced/loss of smell
- tooth pain
- frontal headache
- generalized ailments
- greenish or yellowish secretions
- moist cough (post nasal drainage)
Once congestion has settled in, it takes about a week for a viral infection to disappear on its own. After this time, sinusitis will have to be diagnosed by a physician. During the consultation, the physician may ask questions to help determine possible causes and inquire about all the symptoms before proceeding with an examination.
For bacterial sinusitis, a course of antibiotics is prescribed for ten to fourteen days. It is very important that you finish taking the medication that has been prescribed to you because although the symptoms may disappear, bacteria may still be present. To prevent the infection from reappearing, all the bacteria must be destroyed. You can also take analgesics (ex. Tylenol™, ibuprofen) for associated pain and headaches. Decongestants can also prove useful to relieve acute congestion. And finally, a saline solution (ex. Hydrasense™) can also be used to clean and moisten the nasal passage. At home, using a humidifier can also prove beneficial.
To help prevent sinusitis, it is recommended that you relieve cold and flu symptoms by taking decongestants or by using a saline solution to clear the airways. Additionally, take antihistamines if you suffer from allergies to relieve symptoms and to avoid future complications.