Saturday, April 19, 2008

What is sinus?


Sinusitis is an inflammation of the paranasal sinuses, which may or may not be as a result of infection, from bacterial, fungal, viral, allergic or autoimmune issues. Newer classifications of sinusitis refer to it as rhinosinusitis, taking into account the thought that inflammation of the sinuses cannot occur without some inflammation of the nose as well (rhinitis).

Sinusitis, commonly called “sinus” problem by Malaysians, is the inflammation of the membrane lining of any of your sinuses. (itis = inflammation).

There are two types of sinusitis – acute and chronic. Acute sinusitis is a short-term inflammation of your sinus membranes, usually lasting less than eight weeks. If it occurs no more than three times per year, with each episode lasting no longer than 10 days, each episode is diagnosed as acute sinusitis.

Chronic sinusitis lasts longer than eight weeks or occurs more than four times per year, with symptoms usually lasting more than 20 days.

Sinusitis, both acute and chronic, is extremely common around the world.

Where are my sinuses? How many do I have and why do I need to have sinuses?

Your sinuses are also called paranasal sinuses because they reside around your nose area.
You have four major pairs of sinuses in your skull. There is always a right and left sinus for every pair. The sinuses are air-filled cavities which are connected to the space between your nostrils and nasal passage.
You need sinuses (or any air sac) in your skull because they help insulate your skull against compression pressure. They also help reduce the weight of your skull and allow your voice to resonate through it.
The sinuses are covered with a mucous layer and cells that contain little hairs on their surfaces (cilia). These help trap and propel bacteria out.

The four pairs of sinuses are:
1. Frontal sinuses – in your forehead
2. Maxillary sinuses – behind your cheekbones. These are the ones that are frequently inflamed, giving you that “tender” feeling when you touch them
3. Ethmoid sinuses – in the space between your eyes
4. Spenoid sinuses – behind your eyes
If anything occurs to disrupt the normal balance between your nose and sinuses, then bacteria or viruses may enter your sinuses and cause infection.

How can I tell the difference between sinusitis and a common cold?

Sometimes the differences are marginal and very hard to tell by the lay person. Sometimes you can have both a common cold/flu and sinusitis.
Basically, all acute sinusitis present with a blocked or runny nose, sometimes with mucous discharge dripping down from the back of your nose to your throat. There is pain or pressure around and above the affected sinus.
In ethmoid and frontal sinusitis, the pain or pressure symptoms are worse when you are coughing, straining or lying on the back. They are better when your head is upright. But in maxillary and sphenoid sinusitis, this pain or pressure is worse when your head is upright and when you bend forward. It gets better when your lie down. You may even have a headache in your temple or the area surrounding the eye.
A fever is common in acute sinusitis.
In chronic sinusitis, there is chronic or persistent nasal discharge, nasal obstruction and chronic low-grade pain or pressure in the affected areas. You may also have chronic sore throat and bad breath. In maxillary sinusitis, this can present as a chronic toothache.
If your ethmoid sinusitis is bad enough, the entire sinus can swell and compress your optic nerves, leading to visual disturbances.

What can I do to treat it?

You must drink plenty of water and fluids. Hot tea will be good for you. This helps promote drainage of the sinuses.
You can also inhale steam two to four times a day for 10 minutes each by leaning over a bowl of boiling water (but not when it’s on a stove!). You should take hot, steamy showers. Vicks vapo-rub can also help in opening your nasal passageways. You can also use a vaporiser.
To thin your mucous (to help you get rid of it easier), you can take expectorant drugs and decongestants, which are readily available in any clinic or pharmacy. For infections caused by bacteria, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
For some people who have severe, persistent chronic sinusitis which are crippling their ability to work, surgery is an option.

Can I prevent myself from getting sinusitis?

It is very difficult because no one is immune from a cold! But you can go for a yearly influenza jab to help reduce flu.
Avoid people with obvious symptoms of flu – this is especially important for people who suffer chronic sinusitis.
You can also reduce stress because stress leads to more frequent colds and infections. Take a diet rich in vitamin C. If your sinus infection is linked to allergies, then you should avoid whatever flares your attacks, such as pollen or animal hair.
You should also stop smoking.

Information by:
Dr. Y.M. Lim, The Star articles on April 27, 2008


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