Sinusitis refers to swelling and inflammation of the sinus membranes. The sinuses are hollow cavities through which air passes. There are four pairs of sinuses located within the facial bones and the skull. The frontal sinuses are located above the eyes, the maxillary sinuses are located within the cheekbones, the ethmoid sinuses are located behind the nose bridge and the sphenoid sinuses are located in the upper part of the nose, behind the eyes. The sinuses are connected to the nose. There is an exchange of air and mucus between the sinuses and the nose. There is a lining of mucus membrane that connects the sinuses and nasal passages. Any type of infection of inflammation in the nose also affects the sinuses. When there is blockage, pus formation or buildup of mucus in the sinuses, there is pressure against the sinus walls, resulting in pain. Sinusitis is a common condition and the symptoms are often similar to those of a head cold or nasal congestion. In most cases, sinusitis is temporary and subsides in a short period of time. For some patients however, the condition is chronic and the symptoms tend to persist. Medication and natural remedies help to provide relief from sinusitis.
Symptoms of Sinusitis
The symptoms of acute and chronic sinusitis are similar. Acute sinusitis commonly occurs when an individual gets a cold. Some of the common symptoms of sinusitis include:
- Pain when the forehead is touched, indicating inflammation of the frontal sinuses
- Pain in the upper jaw and cheeks, indicating inflammation of the maxillary sinuses
- Swelling of the eyelids and pain between the eyes, indicating inflammation of the ethmoid sinuses. This may also result in nasal stuffiness, diminished sense of smell and tenderness when the nose is touched
- Earaches, tenderness in the neck and throbbing in the top portion of the head, indicating inflammation of the sphenoid sinuses
- Coughing which may worsen at night
- Nasal discharge or congestion
- Ear pain
- Sore throat
- Bad breath
Chronic sinusitis is usually diagnosed when the following symptoms are present:
- Thick discolored discharge from the nose
- Nasal blockage resulting in breathing difficulties
- Diminished sense of smell and taste
- Swelling and pain around the forehead, nose, cheeks and eyes
- Symptoms of acute sinusitis which last much longer and are more severe in nature
It is advisable to consult a doctor when sinusitis persists for a long time or if bouts of acute sinusitis keep recurring. Certain serious symptoms may be indicative of a more serious infection and require quick medical attention. These include:
- Swelling in the forehead
- Vision problems
- Severe headache
- Stiffness in the neck
- Breathing difficulties
Causes of Sinusitis
There are various factors that may lead to sinusitis. Some of the most common causes include:
- Inhalation or ingestion of fungi that cause irritation to the sinuses and affect the immune system.
- Bacterial growth in the sinuses due to blockages and mucus buildup. The cilia of the sinus membranes are not able to function properly due to bacterial activity, and this causes swelling of the membranes.
- When allergens enter the airways, they can irritate the sinus membranes and lead to swelling and inflammation. Some common allergens include pollen, animal dander and dust.
- Viral infections can affect the cilia and cause an accumulation of mucus in the sinus cavities.
- The cilia cannot function well when there are problems in the immune system. As a result they are unable to protect the body against infection.
- Problems of the nasal cavities, such as a deviated septum, can obstruct the sinus passages.
- Colds and flu cause the body to produce more mucus. This mucus accumulates in the sinus cavities and attracts bacterial growth.
- Inhalation of smoke, chemical fumes and other pollutants can irritate the air passage and cause the membranes to swell.
- Weather changes can also affect the sinuses.
- Individuals with asthma tend to suffer from blocked sinuses.
- Nasal polyps are growths of tissue that block the nasal and sinus passages.
- The sinus passages may sometimes get blocked due to injury or trauma to the face.
- Chronic sinusitis may develop due to other underlying medical conditions that compromise immunity such as HIV and cystic fibrosis.
Remedies for Sinusitis
While cases of acute sinusitis may be treated at home, with either conventional or alternative treatments, or both, chronic sinusitis requires medical attention, although home remedies can be used to provide relief. An accurate diagnosis can help identify and treat any underlying cause, which is why its best to seek medical attention. Keep in mind that while natural remedies for sinusitis can help provide quick relief, not all remedies are equally effective, as most are not subjected to rigorous scientific testing. Here are some home remedies that you could try using for a sinus infection.
- Gently press the sides of your nose using your thumbs for about 15 seconds. This helps to improve the blood flow to the sinuses.
- Drink plenty of fluids such as water and juices to loosen the mucus and enable it to drain easily. Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages as these can dehydrate the body.
- Make sure you get adequate rest when you have a sinus infection. This allows your body to heal properly.
- Alcohol can cause the mucus membranes of the nasal and sinus passages to swell and hence it is best to avoid any beverages containing alcohol.
- One of the best sinusitis home remedies is steam inhalation. Take some boiling water in a large bowl and breathe in the steam rising out of it. You can drape a towel over your head to prevent the steam from escaping. You can also add a couple of drops of eucalyptus essential oil to relieve congestion.
- Garlic is antibiotic in nature and is greatly helpful in fighting various respiratory infections. Eat 2 to 3 cloves of raw garlic daily for relief from sinus trouble, as the problem in most cases stems from minor infections of the respiratory passage.
- Pain, congestion and tenderness due to sinusitis can be alleviated by simply having a hot shower. Breathe in the warm air as you bathe, as it promotes drainage of the sinus cavities.
- You can ease congestion also by keeping your head elevated. Keep a couple of pillows under your head at night.
- If you suffer from repeated bouts of sinusitis, it is a good idea to keep a humidifier in the house. This will prevent your air passages from getting dry and irritated. Remember to clean the device regularly to avoid fungal growth.
- Herbal teas made with peppermint, fennel and sage are beneficial in draining the nasal and sinus passages.
- To relieve nasal congestion, blow out one nostril at a time. Blowing out both nostrils together can lead to a pressure buildup in your ears, which causes bacteria to move back into the sinuses.
- One of the most effective ways to reduce facial pain and tenderness is with a warm compress. Place the compress over the eyes, nose, cheeks and jaw area.
- Capsaicin found in cayenne peppers helps to naturally decongest the nose. You can add cayenne peppers to your meals.
- Use a solution of salt water to drain the nasal passages and flush out bacteria and mucus. This technique is referred to as jal neeti in yoga, and if youre unfamiliar with the practice it may not be the best idea to try out.
Diet for Sinusitis
Your diet has little bearing on the outcome of a sinus infection, but it has a direct effect on your immune function, which is why its important to make some changes to your diet. Here are some dietary tips to relieve sinusitis:
- Restrict your intake of salt as excess sodium can cause edema and also adversely affect calcium absorption.
- For fever that accompanies sinusitis, consume only vegetable and fresh fruit juices diluted with water.
- Avoid fried, sugary and starchy foods. Also avoid foods made of white flour, spicy foods and meat products.
- Instead of sugar, add honey to sweeten your foods and beverages.
- Add lots of fruits and vegetables to your diet as they are packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that boost immunity and enable proper healing and repair of the body.
- Vitamin A is helpful in combating sinus infections as it strengthens the mucus membranes. It can be obtained from foods such as egg yolk, carrots, leafy vegetables and tomatoes.
Suggestions for Sinusitis
You can lower your risk of developing chronic sinusitis by taking the following measures:
- Protect yourself from infections of the upper respiratory tract by maintaining good hygiene. Wash your hands frequently and restrict contact with individuals suffering from infectious respiratory diseases.
- If you suffer from allergies, control your symptoms through medication or natural remedies.
- Avoid exposure to pollution and cigarette smoke as these can irritate and inflame the nasal and sinus passages.
- Evans KL. Recognition and management of sinusitis. Drugs. 1998 Jul;56(1):59-71. Review. PubMed PMID: 9664199.
- Bernstein JA, Davis BP, Picard JK, Cooper JP, Zheng S, Levin LS. A randomized, double-blind, parallel trial comparing capsaicin nasal spray with placebo in subjects with a significant component of nonallergic rhinitis. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2011 Aug; 107(2):171-8. doi: 10.1016/j.anai.2011.05.016. Epub 2011 Jun 29. PubMed PMID: 21802026.
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