Sinuses are air pockets that are located in your face - the cheek area under your eyes, between your eyes, just behind your nose, and in your forehead. The sinuses are attached to the nasal passages via small tubes, which allow drainage to take place. When these small tubes become blocked, sinus problems begin.
Sinusitis occurs when bacteria infects the sinus cavities, usually due to blockage of the small tubes attached to your nasal passages. This causes an inflammation of your sinuses, which stops proper drainage.
Symptoms of sinusitis typically include a combination of the following:
To determine if you have a sinusitis condition, it is important to consult with a physician.
Here is further information on sinusitis as provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases:
You’re coughing and sneezing and tired and achy. You think that you might be getting a cold. Later, when the medicines you’ve been taking to relieve the symptoms of the common cold are not working and you’ve now got a terrible headache, you finally drag yourself to the doctor. After listening to your history of symptoms, examining your face and forehead, and perhaps doing a sinus X-ray, the doctor says you have sinusitis.
Sinusitis simply means inflammation of the sinuses, but this gives little indication of the misery and pain this condition can cause. Chronic sinusitis, sinusitis that persists for at least 3 weeks, affects an estimated 32 million people in the United States. Americans spend millions of dollars each year for medications that promise relief from their sinus symptoms.
Sinuses are hollow air spaces, of which there are many in the human body. When people say, "I'm having a sinus attack," they usually are referring to symptoms in one or more of four pairs of cavities, or spaces, known as paranasal sinuses. These cavities, located within the skull or bones of the head surrounding the nose, include the frontal sinuses over the eyes in the brow area; the maxillary sinuses inside each cheekbone; the ethmoids just behind the bridge of the nose and between the eyes; and behind them, the sphenoids in the upper region of the nose and behind the eyes.
Each sinus has an opening into the nose for the free exchange of air and mucus, and each is joined with the nasal passages by a continuous mucous membrane lining. Therefore, anything that causes a swelling in the nose – an infection or an allergic reaction — also can affect the sinuses. Air trapped within an obstructed sinus, along with pus or other secretions, may cause pressure on the sinus wall. The result is the sometimes intense pain of a sinus attack. Similarly, when air is prevented from entering a paranasal sinus by a swollen membrane at the opening, a vacuum can be created that also causes pain.
Chronic sinusitis refers to inflammation of the sinuses that continues for at least 3 weeks, but often continues for months or even years.
As noted above, allergies are frequently associated with chronic sinusitis. Patients with asthma have a particularly high frequency of chronic sinusitis. Inhalation of airborne allergens (substances that provoke an allergic reaction), such as dust, mold, and pollen, often set off allergic reactions (allergic rhinitis) that, in turn, may contribute to sinusitis. People who are allergic to fungi can develop a condition called "allergic fungal sinusitis."
Damp weather, especially in northern temperate climates, or pollutants in the air and in buildings also can affect people subject to chronic sinusitis.
Like acute sinusitis, chronic sinusitis is more common in patients with immune deficiency or abnormalities of mucus secretion or movement (e.g., immune deficiency, HIV infection, cystic fibrosis, Kartagener's syndrome). In addition, some patients have severe asthma, nasal polyps, and severe asthmatic responses to aspirin and aspirin-like medications (so-called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs). These latter patients have a high frequency of chronic sinusitis.
Sinusitis has its own localized pain signals, depending upon the particular sinus affected. Headache upon awakening in the morning is characteristic of sinus involvement. Pain when the forehead over the frontal sinuses is touched may indicate inflammation of the frontal sinuses. Infection in the maxillary sinuses can cause the upper jaw and teeth to ache and the cheeks to become tender to the touch. Since the ethmoid sinuses are near the tear ducts in the corner of the eyes, inflammation of these cavities often causes swelling of the eyelids and tissues around the eyes, and pain between the eyes. Ethmoid inflammation also can cause tenderness when the sides of the nose are touched, a loss of smell, and a stuffy nose. Although the sphenoid sinuses are less frequently affected, infection in this area can cause earaches, neck pain, and deep aching at the top of the head.
However, most patients with sinusitis have pain or tenderness in several locations, and symptoms usually do not clearly define which sinuses are inflamed.
Other symptoms of sinusitis can include fever, weakness, tiredness, a cough that may be more severe at night, and runny nose or nasal congestion. In addition, drainage of mucus from the sphenoids (or other sinuses) down the back of the throat (postnasal drip) can cause a sore throat and can irritate the membranes lining the larynx (upper windpipe). On rare occasions, acute sinusitis can result in brain infection and serious complications.