To understand what a sinus infection is, you need to know the role of your sinuses, and where they are located.
The human nasal sinus system is an area of air-filled space in the bones that are connected to the nasal cavity. Depending on which bones consist of the sinus spaces will dictate the name of the sinus.
The maxillary sinuses are located in the cheekbones, below the eyes on each side of the nose. The frontal sinuses are above the eyes. The ethmoidal sinuses are between the eyes and the sphenoidal sinuses are located behind the eyes.
There are many possible reasons for our sinuses. They aid in warming and humidifying inspired air and play a role in speech and sound. But they may also serve the purpose of reducing pressure in the breathing system and aid in reducing the weight of the head.
So, what happens to these cavities when we get a sinus infection? Fluid build-up in the sinus cavity may lead to germ proliferation, inflammation, and infection. The infection can be either viral, bacterial, or in rare instances fungal. In some cases, infections may result from allergies.
The proper medical term for a sinus infection is sinusitis. Symptoms of the sinusitis infection can include -
As these air-filled cavities fill with fluid and debris, they swell and can cause pain in the forehead, eyes, cheeks, teeth, ears, or face. Besides antibiotics and other medical treatments, there are some things you can do at home to help to alleviate some of your symptoms.
These should only be taken under the supervision of your healthcare provider. Remember, some Over-The-Counter preparations can interfere with prescription medications and may cause or aggravate health problems (i.e.: high blood pressure.) Antihistamines work by helping to stop the histamine release that causes the sinus cavities to swell and become inflamed. Decongestants help to open up swollen passages.
This is a procedure that can be done at home by using a Neti pot or equivalent. Sterile water or specific nasal preparations are poured gently into the sinuses via the nares (nostrils) as you tilt your head to the opposite side allowing the fluid to run out of the opposing nostril along with any sinus debris or mucus. It is very important to keep the nasal irrigator clean. Cross-contamination may be a side effect of using this system. Using tap water can also be harmful as it contains many impurities.
Beverages like tea, broth, or hot water with lemon and honey can help to open up blocked sinus passages by helping them drain. Hot compresses applied directly to the area can be effective as well.
Humidifiers help keep the environment humid. If our nasal passages become too dry, then our natural barrier of nasal mucosa dries out and becomes susceptible to invasion by viruses or bacteria.
On the flip side, if our environment is too moist, it can be a good place for molds to grow. Mold can be a huge indoor allergen that can aggravate the sinuses and lead to sinusitis. The consequences of not treating sinus congestion can be significant, especially if the infected cavity is near the brain as the infection can spread to the brain itself. Although it is a rare occurrence, you may experience vision impairment if you have unresolved sinusitis that migrates to the eye socket.
It is important to treat any sinus issue. Consult your health care provider for guidance. Always remember, before embarking on a home remedy for any health issue, be sure you have consulted & cleared it with your doctor.
Some home remedies can make matters worse, interfere with prescribed medications, or be inappropriate for your specific situation.
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My name is Laura Castricone and I am a Certified Respiratory Therapist. I have been practicing in the state of Connecticut since 1992. I have worked in several aspects of respiratory care including ...
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