Health Encyclopedia - Diseases and Conditions
From Healthscout's partner site on allergy, HealthCentral.com
Definition of Sinusitis
Description of Sinusitis
The sinuses are holes in the skull between the facial bones. There are four large sinuses: two inside the cheekbones (the maxillary sinuses) and two above the eyes (the frontal sinuses).
There are also smaller sinuses (ethmoidal and sphenoidal sinuses) located between the larger ones. The sinuses are lined with membranes that secrete antibody-containing mucus, which protects the respiratory passages from the onslaught of irritants in the air we breathe.
Causes and Risk Factors of Sinusitis
Most sinusitis is caused by infection (such as a cold or an upper respiratory tract infection) spreading to the sinuses from the nose along the narrow passages that drain mucus from the sinuses into the nose.
Allergies to dust, pollen, pet dander; indoor air pollutants, such as cigarette smoke, rug shampoo and formaldehyde (used in the manufacture of carpeting, particleboard and plywood); and outdoor air pollutants all can induce inflammation.
Excessive dryness in homes and offices from dry-air heating and air-conditioning systems can also inflame the sinuses.
Immunologic, as well as structural problems, such as narrow drainage passages, nasal obstruction (tumors, polyps or a deviated septum) problems are other possible causes of sinusitis.
Symptoms of Sinusitis
The classic symptoms of chronic (long lasting) sinusitis are:
The classic symptoms of acute (short lasting) sinusitis are:
Less common signs of sinusitis include:
Diagnosis of Sinusitis
The doctor will examine the mouth and throat and look up the nasal passages to determine whether the sinus outlets are blocked. Additionally, the doctor may do a transillumintion or a CAT scan.
Transillumination is done in a dark room with a very bright flashlight that is pressed against the forehead or cheek. If the light shines through the sinuses, the doctor can rule out sinusitis. If little or no light penetrates, the cavity is clogged and sinusitis is evident.
CAT scan is a diagnostic technique in which the combined use of a computer and x-rays are passed through the body at different angles, producing clear, cross-sectional images of the nasal cavities.
The doctor may also perform an endoscopic examination. This is a narrow, flexible fiber-optic scope that is placed into the nasal cavity through the nostrils. It allows the doctor to view where the sinuses and middle ear drain into the nose.
Predisposing factors in the patient's history may help confirm the diagnosis or indicate underlying conditions that require therapy. The two most common predisposing factors are a recent upper respiratory tract viral infection (lasting more that seven to 10 days) and allergic disease.
Additionally, sinusitis is especially likely if cold symptoms are unusually severe or accompanied by a high fever, pus-like nasal discharge or puffy eyes.
Treatment of Sinusitis
If a bacterial infection is present, antibiotics, such as amoxicillin, erythromycin or sulfa drugs, are usually prescribed for about 10 days.
Your doctor also may prescribe one or more of the following remedies (which can be useful in reducing inflammation in the sinuses and nose and speeding recovery):
Recurring sinusitis accompanied by a bacterial infection usually requires one of the new, stronger antibiotics, such as Augmentin, Ceclor or Ceftin. These drugs may be given in larger doses for a longer period of time (up to four weeks) than required for a brief bout of sinusitis. The doctor may also recommend continued use of a prescription nasal inhaler for several months to keep the inflammation down and prevent a recurrence.
What Questions To Ask Your Doctor About Sinusitis
Are any tests needed to diagnose the condition or determine the cause?
Is the sinusitis caused from allergies or a bacterial infection?
Will you be prescribing any medications? What are the side effects?
How effective is the medication?
How long will it take to feel relief of pain and discomfort?
If you are recommending nasal sprays or medication, which ones are most effective?
Are there any home treatments you might recommend?
Prevention of Sinusitis
Find a Therapist