Every year thousands of people flock to drug stores, to stand in front of numerous products trying to figure out what sinus medication they should buy. Many people often mistake a sinus problem with a cold or symptoms of allergies. Because these conditions often mimic each other, it is best to visit an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist if you are prone to sinus infections.

Understanding sinus cavities

The term “sinuses” actually refers to the sinus cavities, which are the hollow spaces in the bones around the nose. The largest of the four cavities is the maxillary region or maxillary sinus, and it is located in your cheekbones. The maxillary is the largest part of your sinus, spanning approximately one inch in length (across). It is made up of two parts, one on each side of your nose.

The second part of your sinuses is called the frontal sinus. This region is located on your forehead just above the inner corner extending to about the middle your eyebrows. The frontal sinuses also consist of two parts – one above each inner eyebrow.

The third part of your sinuses is called the ethmoid sinus, which is located between your eyes in the area most people call the nasal bridge.

The fourth and last part of the sinuses is called the sphenoid sinus and it is located near the bones of your skull behind your nasal cavity. The sphenoid sinuses are close to the ethmoid sinuses and if you were to look at a picture of your sphenoid sinuses, they would look like part of the ethmoid sinuses. The sphenoid sinuses are the smallest part of your sinuses.

Symptoms of sinus problems

Sinusitis is a condition describing inflammation of the sinus cavities. Presenting signs include:

  • Nasal obstruction
  • Fevers or chills
  • Facial pressure or fullness
  • Dental or cheek pain
  • Difficulty with sense of smell
  • Discolored drainage from one side of the nose or both

Causes and concerns

The lining around the sinuses can become inflamed and occasionally be filled with fluid or purulent material. This is traditionally known as an acute sinusitis. The manifestations of sinusitis can vary, however, in general patients feel nasal obstruction, possibly a low-grade fever, difficulty with sense of smell, pain in the teeth or cheeks and or discolored thick drainage from the nose on one or both sides.

A few diseases and conditions that are associated with the sinuses include:

  • Sinusitis
  • Nasal polyps
  • Paranasal sinuses
  • Sinus disease

Often it is difficult to tell the difference between an acute sinusitis versus an upper respiratory infection which may be virally mediated. They may present in a similar manner however the duration of symptoms for the sinusitis is usually longer – at least seven days or so.

Solutions and options

Treatment for viral sinusitis is different from the treatment of the bacterial form. The sinusitis caused by viruses usually runs its course within 10 to 14 days. Many people find relief with over the counter sinus medications, such as decongestants, saline nasal spray and pain relievers. We advise that you drink lots of fluids (preferably water) and use saltwater nasal drops. Also, you can apply a warm, damp cloth to reduce pain and swelling. Some people use steam from the shower or other moisturizing sources to help loosen the mucus.

For bacterial sinusitis, we recommend that you be evaluated for treatment. Your antibiotic therapy will depend on your age, your unique condition, the extent of your infection and your health condition. Also, this form of sinusitis responds to the same at home treatment measures as the viral form. However, fungi sinusitis is a rare condition that is treated differently from the other two forms of sinusitis. Many times, patients with fungal sinusitis require steroid therapy or even surgery.

Many people suffer from recurring, chronic sinusitis due to allergies. If your sinus specialist feels that your chronic sinusitis is caused from allergies, then prescription medication or allergy shots could help. If you have returning episodes of sinusitis symptoms, you could have chronic sinusitis. It is important that you come in for an evaluation, as this type of the disease requires specialized treatment.

Nearly everyone experiences problems with the sinuses at some point in their lives. Viral and bacterial sinus infections are quite common. If you suspect you have sinusitis, the sooner you get to a sinus specialist, the better. Sinusitis can be painful, annoying and problematic. No one likes the feeling of not being able to breathe from a stuffed-up nose.

If you are having symptoms, please call our office for an appointment