Sinusitis, or inflammation of the sinuses, arises from several different causes. The sinuses require mucus to keep them lubricated. Under certain conditions, the mucus becomes a prime breeding ground for bacteria. Some cases are due to viral infections. Beyond medication, warm compresses and saline nasal sprays often provide relief.

Sinusitis is the inflammation of the sinuses. In fact, any medical condition with the “-itis” suffix involves inflammation of some type.

The sinuses are hollow spaces located inside bones surrounding the eyes and nose. There are four sets of sinuses, each named for the bones in which they exist:

  • Frontal, in the center of the forehead
  • Maxillary, near the cheekbones and upper jaw
  • Sphenoid, found near the optic nerve
  • Ethmoid, smaller pockets opening into the nasal cavity

Because they are air pockets in the bone, sinuses lighten the overall weight of the skull. They also function as air filters, and moisten inhaled air. Finally, they play a part in the shape of the face.

Mucus is a constant presence in the sinuses. It has a vital function, protecting delicate tissue, moistening it to prevent cracking where germs may enter.  In healthy sinuses, cilia, which are delicate hair like cells, keep mucus moving for eventual exit through the nose. However, mucus also provides a great environment for the growth of infections. Infection causes inflammation, and leads to a diagnosis of sinusitis.

Sinuses blocked due to the accumulation of excess mucus become inflamed.  Sinusitis sometimes occurs as a bacterial infection that follows a virus. Viruses cause extra production of mucus. Bacteria grows, mucus production increases even more, and pain ensues. Symptoms of bacterial sinusitis also include stuffy nose, fever, headache, and the inability to smell things. Acute bacterial sinusitis may last up to four weeks.

However, many cases are due to viral infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Acute viral sinusitis usually lasts for fewer than 4 weeks and often occurs following a cold or other upper respiratory virus.

Other individuals suffer from chronic sinusitis, sometimes cause by allergic rhinitis or asthma. The condition is considered as chronic if it persists for a period exceeding four weeks. In cases of chronic sinusitis, other causes may exist, such as nasal polyps and tumors, and respiratory tract infections.

Sinusitis can be a very painful condition. Many experience fever, fatigue, cough, chest congestion, and pain. There may be greenish or yellow mucus present. Another common symptom is postnasal drip, when mucus drips down the back of the throat, causing coughing. Bad breath is yet another common symptom.

Diagnosing sinusitis requires a medical exam to review symptoms and examine the face. In general, a doctor or other health professional looks for swelling and redness in the face. Applying pressure to assess discomfort is another diagnostic tool, as is tapping on the teeth, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology. Beyond that, obtaining a correct diagnosis may require x-rays or other diagnostic imaging tests.

Depending upon the diagnosis, there are several treatments available for sinusitis. For bacterial sinusitis, antibiotics are warranted. Additionally, decongestants help thin secretions and unclog sinuses. Medications to relieve pain are commonly prescribed. Beyond prescriptions, several “home remedies” also help, such as warm compresses on the face, and saline nasal spray. Steam vaporizers also help. Cool mist vaporizers may help, but only those with new, clean, mold and bacteria free filters.

In a small percentage of cases, sinus surgery is the only way to relive sinusitis.



Additional Diseases Info:

Asthma infographic


alveolus air sac where gas exchange takes place.
angina chest pain.
aorta blood vessel that delivers oxygen-rich blood from the left ventricle to the body; it is the largest blood vessel in the body.
apex top portion of the upper lobes of the lungs.
atrium one of the two receiving chambers of the heart.
base bottom portion of lower lobes, located just above the diaphragm.
blood pressure pressure of blood against the walls of a blood vessel or heart chamber.
bronchiolitis inflammation that involves the bronchioles (small airways).
bronchoscopy the examination of the bronchi (the main airways of the lungs) using a flexible tube (bronchoscope). Bronchoscopy helps to evaluate and diagnose lung problems, assess blockages, obtain samples of tissue and/or fluid, and/or to help remove a foreign body.
bronchus large airways; lung divides into right and left bronchi.
cardiac output total amount of blood being pumped by the heart over a particular period of time.
catheter thin, flexible medical tube; one use is to insert it into a blood vessel to measure blood pressure.
constrict tighten; narrow.
cyanosis bluish color in the skin because of insufficient oxygen.
diaphragm primary muscle used for respiration, located just below the lung bases.
diastolic pressure lowest pressure to which blood pressure falls between contractions of the ventricles.
dilate relax; expand.
dyspnea sensation of difficulty in breathing.
edema swelling due to the buildup of fluid.
endothelial cells the delicate lining, only one cell thick, of the organs of circulation.
expiration exhaling; giving off carbon dioxide.
heartbeat one complete contraction of the heart.
hyperactive describes a situation in which a body tissue is especially likely to have an exaggerated reaction to a particular situation.
hypertension abnormally high blood pressure.
hypotension abnormally low blood pressure.
inspiration inhaling; taking in oxygen.
lobectomy removal of an entire lobe of the lung.
lung volume the amount of air the lungs hold.
mean blood pressure average blood pressure, taking account of the rise and fall that occurs with each heartbeat. It is often estimated by multiplying the diastolic pressure by two, adding the systolic pressure, and then dividing this sum by three.
palpitation sensation of rapid heartbeats.
perfusion flow.
pleura membrane that covers the outside of the lung.
pneumonectomy removal of an entire lung.
pulmonary artery blood vessel delivering oxygen-poor blood from the right ventricle to the lungs.
pulmonary hypertension abnormally high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs.
smooth muscle muscle that performs automatic tasks, such as constricting blood vessels.
spirogram record of the amounts of air being moved in and out of the lungs.
syncope fainting; temporary loss of consciousness.
systemic relating to a process that affects the body generally; in this instance, the way in which blood is supplied through the aorta to all body organs except the lungs.
systolic pressure the highest pressure to which blood pressure rises with the contraction of the ventricles.
vasodilator agent that widens blood vessels.
ventilation movement of air (gases) in and out of the lungs.
ventricle one of the two pumping chambers of the heart; right ventricle receives oxygen-poor blood from the right atrium and pumps it to the lungs through the pulmonary artery; left ventricle receives oxygen-rich blood from the left atrium and pumps it to the body through the aorta.