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The term 'sinuses' refers to the paranasal sinuses, which are air-filled cavities, lined by the mucous membrane. They are located in and around the nose. There are four types of paranasal sinuses, viz. maxillary, frontal, ethmoid, and sphenoid. As the terms suggest, they are named after the facial bone type where they are located. The basic function of these sinuses is to moisten the nasal cavity, and warm inhaled air.

Infection and inflammation of the paranasal sinuses is termed as sinusitis. It is classified as infectious and non-infectious. The former is caused by infection of the sinuses, whereas allergies and environmental irritants cause non-infectious sinusitis. A sinus infection is further classified into acute, sub-acute, and chronic, depending upon the duration of the ailment. Acute (sudden) sinusitis lasts for less than 4 weeks, sub-acute for about 4 - 6 weeks, and chronic (long-term) sinusitis usually lasts for more than 12 weeks.

◉ Signs and Symptoms of Sinusitis ◉

The manifested symptoms of short-term infection differ slightly from the chronic one. The symptoms would vary, depending on the type of sinus that is affected. Inflammation of the paranasal sinuses causes excess secretion of mucus, which blocks the nasal passages. This results in congestion, stuffiness, and other symptoms. Following are some of the common signs and symptoms of sinus infection which can be observed in acute and chronic conditions.

Acute Sinusitis Symptoms
  • Nasal congestion
  • Thick, yellow or greenish nasal discharge
  • Sinus pain or facial pain
  • Sinus pressure or facial pressure
  • Mild to severe headache
  • Postnasal drip
  • Running high temperature
  • Vision disturbances (sphenoid sinusitis)
  • Loss of smell
  • Cough or congestion
  • Tender cheekbone (maxillary sinusitis)
  • Pain gets worse when lying down or bending forward
Chronic Sinusitis Symptoms
  • Chronic nasal congestion
  • Chronic postnasal drip
  • Pus in the nasal cavity
  • Loss of smell and taste
  • Cough (that worsens at night)
  • Sore throat
  • Bad breath
  • Low-grade headache
  • Pressure below eye (maxillary sinusitis)
  • Toothache or chronic tooth sensitivity (maxillary sinusitis)
  • Sinus pressure (specific to affected sinus)
Thus, pain and pressure around the face are typical signs of a sinus infection. They may worsen while bending forward, reclining, lying on back, or other head positions. The area affected by the pain is examined carefully for diagnosis of the affected sinus bone. For sinusitis triggered by an allergy, the aforementioned symptoms may be accompanied with itchy eyes, watery eyes, clear mucus, and sneezing. In severe cases, sinusitis may lead to osteomyelitis, brain infection, and meningitis. If you experience symptoms such as swelling in the forehead, confusion, vision changes, shortness of breath, severe headache, or swelling around eyes, rush to the doctor immediately.

◉ What Causes Sinus Infection? ◉

Sinus infection, alternatively referred to as sinusitis, is an inflammation of the paranasal sinuses. Very often, it is associated with an upper respiratory tract infection. Sinusitis may occur due to infection by bacteria, virus, or fungi in the paranasal sinuses. Of these, bacterial and viral infections are responsible for maximum cases of sinus inflammation. Patients having common cold often report sinusitis symptoms. In other words, sinus infection is often preceded by common cold.

Possible triggers of this discomforting condition are air pollutants, chemical irritants, other allergens, extreme climatic conditions, stress, dehydration, and excess smoking. Any form of allergy that negatively affects the functioning of the immune system may lead to swelling and inflammation of the sinuses. People having a compromised immune system and those who have suffered from a dental infection, or an injury of the nasal bones are more prone to sinusitis than others. Knowing sinusitis causes and triggers will help in preventing this annoying condition.

◉ Diagnosis and Treatment ◉

Diagnosis of sinusitis is done based on the symptoms, physical examination and medical history of the patient. Since the symptoms of sinusitis are similar to that of a common cold, the physician may conduct certain diagnostic tests such as microbial culture, endoscopic evaluation of the nasopharynx, and computed tomographic (CT) scan of the sinuses. Ultrasound may also be used for the diagnosis as it is reliable and less expensive than a CT scan. Palpation and percussion of the face also help in identifying the affected paranasal sinus. This further helps in adopting correct treatment methods.

Treatment for Sinus Infection

Sinus infection should be treated as early as possible, as there are chances that acute sinusitis may lead to sub-acute or chronic conditions. The main objective of sinusitis treatment is to cure the infection (if any) and relieve the nasal congestion.
  • For a patient of acute sinusitis, antibiotic therapy is recommended.
  • One can also make use of decongestants (topical or oral) to clear the nasal passages.
  • In addition, the physician may recommend adjunctive treatments, such as taking antihistamines, mucolytic agents, and corticosteroids.
According to a study conducted by the University of Wisconsin, School of Medicine, it was shown that a daily nasal irrigation using hypertonic saline solution is an effective way for treating chronic sinusitis. A patient can put the saline solution in the nasal passages by using a squeeze bottle or a pump spray bottle. Another study reveals that nasal irrigation is most effective when followed during the infection outbreaks only, and not for a long-term period. This is because, the mucus contains beneficial microbes that counteract the pathogens, thereby preventing onset of infections.

Home Remedies for Sinus Infection

In order to get rid of a sinus infection, most people prefer to follow home remedies. Some of the most common home remedies are as follows.
  • Inhaling steam twice or thrice a day may help a lot. You can add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to it. It will relieve congestion and pain as well.
  • Drinking lots of fluids, hot herbal tea or even just water may be very helpful.
  • A hot or steamy shower is an age-old remedy for sinusitis.
  • You can use nasal saline irrigation method with the help of a neti-pot. It is very effective in reducing pressure, facial pain and clearing nasal congestion.
Though medications are effectual for treatment of a sinus infection, there are several cases of recurrent sinusitis after completion of the treatment course. So, care should be taken to avoid the triggers.

Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.