Chronic Sinus Infections

A sinus is an air cavity found at different locations in the head region. There are four pairs of sinuses. All of them have their one end opening into the nasal cavity for the exchange of air and mucus. The unwanted mucus is disposed off from the sinus cavities into the nasal passages from where they are excreted out.
| Friday, April 30, 2010
The naming of the sinuses is as per their location in the facial region. The four pairs of sinuses are called as below:
  • Ethmoid sinuses - These are located at the base of the nose behind the nasal constriction, between the eyes.
  • Frontal sinuses - These are located in the forehead region above the eyes.
  • Maxillary sinuses - these are located in the cheek bones on either side of the nostrils.
  • Sphenoid sinuses - these are located behind the ethmoid sinuses, deep in the skull.

Why do Sinuses Exist?

  • They play an important role in the excretion of unwanted mucus.
  • They clean the air entering the body through the nasal cavity.
  • They play a role in toning voice.
  • They ease the bone weight of the skull.

So far so good! Under normal conditions all seems fine with the sinuses, then where is the trouble? Why do we hear people complaining about sinus problems? Well that is when the sinuses get clogged due to infection of any other adverse condition.

Inflammation of the sinuses is called as sinusitis and infection can be one of the causative factors. Sinusitis is characterized by headaches and mild pain in the facial area. The pain is at a higher intensity in the area of the affected sinuses. Acute and chronic sinusitis are characterized by nasal discharges (sometimes blood may be present).

Sinus infections or sinusitis are broadly classified into two types:

1. Acute Sinusitis / Acute Sinus Infections

a. In this case, the infection persists for about a week.
b. It may be caused due to viral or bacterial infection. Acute sinusitis is generally hospital acquired (Nosocomial).

2. Chronic Sinusitis / Chronic Sinus Infections

a. In this case the condition persists for almost seven to ten weeks.
b. Various modes of tests for diagnosis of the causative factor are used like C T Scan, Nasal endoscopy, multiple biopsies etc.
c. People already suffering from chronic sinus infections need to be cautious regarding the climatic fluctuations and also factors that rigger allergic reactions like pollutants. Allergies are common causative factors for the development of chronis sinusitis.
d. Chronic sinusitis is difficult to treat in comparison to acute sinusitis. Even after treatment with antibiotics the symptoms persist.
e. Chronic sinusitis can be prevented by taking some precautionary measures. It is advisable to keep away from allergens like air pollutants, smoke, pollens, strong perfumes etc. A humidifier can be used at home to prevent dry air from causing irritation in the sinuses.

Treatment for Sinusitis

It is always advisable to use the over-the-counter medications only as per the advice of a doctor. Choice of a wrong drug can worsen the condition.

  • Majority of the cases, especially those involving viral infections are taken care of by antibiotics in suggested doses and combinations.
  • Corticosteroids, that are known to control inflammation by blocking the release of inflammatory chemicals called prostaglandins, are also used as single therapy or in combination with antibiotics.
  • Surgical measures are taken up in case of chronic sinusitis when medicines alone do not show results.
    • Functional endoscopic sinus surgery is one of the advanced techniques that are used in preference with the conventional methods of facial or oral incisions.
    • Balloon sinoplasty is another popular technique to relieve sinus congestion with minimal invasion.
Sinusitis (whether chronic or acute) is not to be feared about but at the same time should not be neglected. The family doctor needs to be consulted if at all any symptoms of sinusitis are experienced.
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