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Sinus Problems FAQ

Sinus Problems

What are sinuses?

The nasal sinuses are hollow cavities within the cheek bones around the eyes and behind the nose. The sinus cavities warm, moisten, and filter the air that we breathe; they also take the weight off the skull and insulate it. There are four pairs of sinuses: the frontal sinuses, located in the forehead; the maxillary sinuses, located behind the cheek bones; the ethmoid sinuses, located between the eyes; and the sphenoid sinuses, located behind the eyes. Healthy sinuses contain no bacteria and open easily, allowing mucus to drain and air to circulate.

What is sinusitis?

Sinusitis is inflammation of the membrane lining of one or more of the sinus cavities. When sinuses become blocked and cannot drain properly, bacteria multiply and cause infection.

What is acute sinusitis?

Acute sinusitis, usually caused by a bacterial, fungal, or viral infection (like a common cold), usually clears up in a matter of days or weeks.

What are the symptoms of sinusitis?

Symptoms of sinusitis may include facial pain or pressure, nasal obstruction, nasal discharge, and diminished sense of smell. Sinusitis could also cause fever, bad breath, fatigue, dental pain, and cough.

What is recurrent sinusitis?

Recurrent sinusitis refers to acute sinusitis that returns three of four times a year.

What is chronic sinusitis?

Chronic sinusitis lasts eight weeks or longer, and it's usually caused by a chronic inflammatory disorder similar to bronchial asthma.

How common is sinusitis?

Approximately 37 million Americans (1 in 7) suffer from sinusitis at least once a year.

What is the difference between sinusitis and rhinitis?

Rhinitis refers to inflammation of the mucus membranes of the nose, whereas sinusitis refers to inflammation in the sinuses. Allergic rhinitis is inflammation in the nose that is caused by allergens, and it may be seasonal or perennial (year-round). Non-allergic rhinitis may be caused by structural problems with the nose, changes in hormones, or overuse of nasal sprays. Infectious rhinitis is caused by bacteria, fungi, or viruses, and this accounts for most cases. Poorly controlled rhinitis can lead to sinusitis.

What is rhinosinusitis?

When nasal inflammation accompanies sinusitis (which is the case most of the time), it is referred to as rhinosinusitis.

Is there a connection between allergies and sinusitis?

Yes. "Sinusitis is very common in the winter and can last for months or years if inadequately treated," says Brian A. Smart, MD. "It is more likely that people with other allergic diseases such as allergies or asthma will develop sinusitis."

The incidence of sinusitis in asthma patients ranges from 40% - 75%.

"Mold is associated with many chronic sinusitis symptoms," points out Dr. Clive Brown of the CDC, referring to a 1999 Mayo Clinic study which found that allergic fungal sinusitis (AFS) was diagnosed in 93% of cases of chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS). Learn how to combat mold allergies with our Mold & Mildew Solution Guide.

What is an otolaryngologist?

Otolaryngologists are medical doctors who specialize in treating conditions affecting the ear, nose, and throat; they're also known as ENT (ear, nose, and throat) physicians. Sometimes a structural problem can lead to recurrent sinusitis, and in this case, an otolaryngologist may need to perform surgery.

How is sinusitis treated?

Your allergist or physician may prescribe antibiotics, decongestants, and/or antihistamines to treat sinusitis. Immunotherapy ("allergy shots") may also help if your sinusitis is due to allergies.

Several non-drug treatments also work well for sinusitis. Breathing in hot, moist air restores moisture and soothes irritated sinuses. For more information about non-drug sinus relief, see all sinus relief products.

Environmental control measures also help to alleviate sinus problems. During the winter, a humidifier will add soothing moisture to dry, irritating air. If you have a mold problem, keep the relative humidity below 50% with a dehumidifier. Rid your air of allergens, chemicals, and other impurities with an air purifier, and protect your bed from allergenic organisms like dust mites and mold withallergy relief bedding.

Helpful Information on Treating Sinus Problems