Sinusitis is the swelling (inflammation) of the sinuses.
Sinuses are the empty spaces present within the bones of your face and head. These spaces are normally filled with air with a purpose to make your head lighter on the shoulders.
Sinuses are lined by a thin mucus membrane similar to your nose. Normally they remain dry. They secrete a liquid material called mucus that traps the dust and other particles from entering the airway. Normally, the mucus enters the nose from small holes that open into your nose.
In case of allergy or infection this mucus membrane gets inflamed blocking these openings. This in turn fills the sinuses with mucus which promotes infection causing pain and other symptoms. Usually, the infection is caused by a virus and less commonly by a bacteria or a fungus.
There are mainly four types of sinuses, present in different parts of your face around your nose. Thus, are referred to as paranasal sinuses.
• Maxillary sinuses: are located in the cheeks and are the largest amongst the other sinuses.
• Frontal sinuses: are located in the lower part of the forehead, specifically around the centre.
• Ethmoidal sinuses: are located between the eyes, under the bridge of the nose.
• Sphenoidal sinuses: are located behind the eyes.
There are 4 types of sinusitis depending upon its severity and duration.
A mild version, usually lasts no more than 4 weeks and responds well to medication.
A continuation of the acute version, it lasts anywhere between 4 and 12 weeks.
A more serious condition that lasts more than 12 weeks.
It can include several episodes of acute sinusitis, lasting around 7 days in any 1-year period.
Sinusitis can have similar symptoms like a cold. Often, acute and chronic sinusitis also have similar symptoms, but they differ induration and severity.
• Stuffy or blocked nose.
• Facial pain or pressure due to mucus filled sinus.
• Post-natal discharge– mucus dripping into the throat.
• Nasal discharge- yellow or green thick mucus secretion from the nose.
• Bad breath also called Halitosis.
• Cough or feeling of irritation in the throat.
• Tiredness and lethargy.
• Reduced sense of smell.
• Tenderness and swelling around the cheeks.
• Ear Pain
When these symptoms lasts for more than 4 weeks, it suggests chronic sinusitis.
Identifying the symptoms of sinusitis in children is difficult at times. They might also experience other symptoms like:
• High fever reaching more than 38˚C
• Cold or cough that persists for more than 10 days.
• Allergy symptoms like blocked nose, that last for more than 2 weeks.
• Dark coloured mucus discharge from the nose.
You may experience a change in your kid’s voice, due to blocked or stuffy nose causing a nasal tone of speech.
Mostly the acute cases don’t need medical treatment and the swelling tends to go on its own.
However, if you have chronic sinusitis or some alarming signs you need medical help.
Consider consulting a doctor for the following:
• Symptoms getting worse with time.
• Symptoms not reducing even after 10 days.
• Recurring sinusitis- symptoms recurring with normal period in between.
• Severe symptoms or symptoms affecting day to day activities.
• Severe headache,or facial pain.
• Fever lasting for more than 3-4 days.
• Mucus discharge having yellow colour and a creamy(pus like) consistency or bloody discharge, instead of green.
Most cases of sinusitis are due to viral infections. Only, about 2% cases are related to bacterial infections. Fungal infection is rare but more serious. They typically affects immunocompromised people such as diabetics.
Previous episode of flu or cold, which can cause an infection in the respiratory tract can also lead to inflammation in the sinuses.
Allergic reaction from pollutants or irritants like pollen, dust or pet dander causes swelling in the sinuses. The swelling blocks the opening of the sinuses and triggers mucus discharge filling up the sinuses. This in turn leads to symptoms of pain and heaviness. Allergic conditions like hay fever, allergic rhinitis, asthma can also lead to similar condition.
Deviated Nasal Septum- a deviation in the septum reduces the space around the sinus openings. This makes you prone to easier blockages with increased tendency to get sinusitis.
Nasal polyps- polyps are excess tissue that grows inside your nose. They may also blocks the opening of the sinuses, restricting the mucus discharge and increasing the chances of infection.
Weak immune system:
• Diseases that affect the immune system like diabetes, cystic fibrosis or HIV can reduce the ability to combat infections.
• Certain medicines or drugs can also reduce immunity and make you more susceptible to infections.
Exposure to tobacco smoke: if you smoke or stay close to someone who smokes it cause swelling of sinus lining. It also stimulates mucus discharge triggering the condition.
Apart from these conditions, some specific conditions can cause sinusitis in kids.
• Close contact with other kids especially at places like day care centres which may transmit infection.
• Use of pacifier, in case they have been exposed to unclean environment.
• Drinking milk from a bottle while lying down on the back.
Doctor can usually identify sinusitis on the basis of the signs and symptoms. However,he might ask you to undergo a few tests- to confirm the diagnosis, know its extent and plana treatment.
When you visit the doctor, you may expect to undergo the following things.
Acute sinusitis can be taken care of at home and usually starts fading away in a couple of days, without the use of any prescription medicine.
Some of the steps that might help reduce the congestion and stuffiness from sinusitis are mentioned below.
Depending on whether the condition is acute or chronic, what is causing the sinusitis and if there are any underlying issues present, as confirmed from the diagnosis, the doctor may prescribe medication or no treatment at all.
Acute sinusitis tends to heal by itself at home and rarely requires medical treatment. Chronic sinusitis on the other hand is long lasting and requires intervention to reduce the effect.
Differentiating acute from chronic sinusitis might not be possible right away, but is important that the condition be diagnosed, if you have the slightest doubt.
Neglecting sinusitis can complicate the situation and lead to other conditions, namely:
• Bone infections like osteomyelitis.
• Painful pus filled lump called abscess.
• Infection of the meninges which covers the brain and spinal cord called meningitis.
• Inflammation in the eye tissue due to spread of infection in the eye socket, called orbital cellulitis.
These conditions can have serious outcomes leading to loss of eye sight, if neglected and left unattended.
It is therefore important to take care of oneself and visit a doctor if chronic symptoms tend to persist for a long duration of time.
Be patient and observant if you or anyone you know might be experiencing sinusitis, especially when it comes to young children.
Support and help relieve their symptoms of sinusitis, but also stay vigilant and confront a specialist if needed.
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