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Sinuses are hollow, air-filled cavities that are located in the bones within the skull. There are four pairs of air-filled cavities (frontal sinuses, maxillary sinuses, sphenoid sinuses, and ethmoid sinuses) that are connected to the nasal cavity through a small orifice called ostium. The mucus secreted by the membrane that lines these cavities keeps the nasal passages moist, and small hair-like projections called cilia help in propelling the mucus towards the back of the nose. Sinuses filter out pathogens and environmental irritants from the inhaled air, thereby preventing them from entering the lungs. When the nasal passages swell up due to infections, mucus accumulates in these cavities, thereby giving rise to symptoms such as headaches, feeling of pressure around the face, nasal congestion, etc.

Contributing Factors

The sinuses have been named after the bones within which they are located. The frontal sinuses are located in the frontal bone in the forehead, while the maxillary sinuses are located within the maxillary bone under the eyes. The ethmoid sinuses lie within the ethmoid bone, which is located between the nose and the eyes. The sphenoid sinuses lie behind the eyes, deep within the center of the skull. The feeling of pressure or pain behind the eyes occurs due to the inflammation of ethmoid or sphenoid sinuses.

While sinus pressure or headaches due to sphenoid sinusitis exacerbates when the patient bends forward or while lying on the back, the pressure due to inflamed ethmoid sinuses often worsens while coughing or lying on back. Upper respiratory infections or allergies are often the contributing factors. Sinuses and turbinates (small bony projections in the nasal passages that filter the air) may swell up as they filter environmental pollutants, allergens, or pathogens from the inhaled air. Exposure to such irritants may result in blockage of small openings that connect the sinuses to nasal cavity. When mucus gets trapped in sinus cavities, pathogens begin to multiply, thereby giving rise to sinusitis. Headache, nasal congestion, sore throat, blurred vision, breathing problems, and pressure around the inflamed sinus are some of the common symptoms of sinusitis.

Treatment

The best way to get rid of sinus pressure or headaches is to treat the underlying cause. While antibiotics would be prescribed for treating a bacterial infection, antihistamines are recommended for treating an allergy. Decongestants, anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, or painkillers may also be prescribed. One can also try certain home remedies that may provide relief from headaches. First of all, one must take ample rest and give the body enough time to recover. Drinking herbal tea, warm water, or soups can help loosen the mucus. Once the mucus is drained off, the feeling of pressure will surely resolve. Inhalation of steam, application of warm compresses on face, or nasal irrigation can also provide relief. Massaging sinus pressure points or following alternative healing therapies such as shiatsu or acupressure can also help in relieving the sinus pressure. Since exposure to allergens or irritants is a common cause of sinusitis, one needs to stay away from places where one may get exposed to environmental pollutants or allergens.

Sinusitis can be caused by a wide range of reasons. Therefore, it is essential to seek medical help to identify and treat the underlying cause. Drug therapy coupled with self-care measures or remedies can certainly help alleviate the symptoms.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.