Sinusitis means infection or inflammation of the sinuses. The sinuses are air-filled spaces within the bones of the face. They are located in the cheeks (maxillary), forehead (frontal) and around the eyes (ethmoidal).
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Sinusitis is caused by too much mucus, or a swelling of the lining of the sinuses and nose, which can block the narrow channels. This can occur during a cold, or may be due to allergy (eg, hayfever) or irritation of the linings of the sinuses (eg, from chlorine in a swimming pool). Bacteria then grow inside the sinuses, causing pain, headache and sometimes fever. Mucus from infected sinuses can be yellow or green.
Common symptoms of sinusitis include:
- Blocked nose
- Feeling of pressure inside the face
- Facial pain, particularly when leaning forward
- Aching teeth in the upper jaw
- Yellow or green-coloured mucus from the nose
- Swelling of the face
- Loss of the senses of smell and taste
- Persistent cough
- Generally feeling unwell.
Certain factors increase a person’s susceptibility to sinusitis, including:
- Frequent colds (especially for young children)
- Cigarette smoking (active or passive)
- Regular use of nasal decongestant sprays (for more than two to three days)
- Untreated hay fever or other allergies
- Structural abnormalities of the nose
- Nasal polyps (swellings in the linings of the nose or sinuses)
- Dental disease, such as untreated tooth abscess.
Decongestants that help with symptoms of colds usually do not help with sinusitis. Nose sprays can even make the problem worse, if they are used for too long, because they can cause more swelling. Antibiotics are often prescribed for sinusitis. Mostly sufferers will recover fully from sinusitis in a week or so without antibiotics. But they may recover more quickly if effective antibiotics are used.
For sufferers of sinusitis, it’s important to see if there is any trigger which can be treated. For example, hayfever or dental disease may need to be treated, or you may want to avoid irritants by staying out of swimming pools.