Understanding The Sinuses and Sinus Infection
Our sinuses are the air-filled spaces in the bones of the face and skull that act as the body’s natural air filter. There are usually four sinuses present on each side. The thin layer of mucus they produce is normally propelled by the cilia, the microscopic pulsating hair cells that line the nose and sinuses. The healthy mucus thereby flows freely into the nose and is designed to moisten the air we breathe, as well as trap and remove inhaled pollutants such as dust, mold, viruses and bacteria that we breathe in.
Anatomy of the Sinuses
Normally, this thin “mucus blanket” drains unnoticed into the throat and stomach, removing the trapped pollutants and preventing potential infection. When the passages between the nose and sinuses become blocked, often by a combination of infection, inflammation and often by nasal polyps, the mucus cannot drain properly. Instead, it backs up and becomes trapped in the nasal and sinus cavities, which can lead to sinus infection, also known as sinusitis.
Healthy Sinus Cycle and Cycle leading to Chronic Sinusitis
Healthy Sinuses vs. Sinusitis
Common Causes of Sinusitis
Some people are born with narrow sinus outflow tracts which often contribute to repeated sinus infection, as can a deviated septum, nasal polyps and other nasal abnormalities. Typically, multiple factors are responsible for sinus problems.
Factors that reduce the mucous membranes’ (sinus lining’s) ability to produce and transport the cleansing “mucus blanket” that is our main defense against upper respiratory infection:
• acid reflux (the reflux of stomach acid into the throat and nose)
• allergies to pollen, dust, animals and foods
• exposure and sensitivity to mold
• poor air quality, such as smoke, dust and mold
• immune system deficiencies
• severe systemic disease
Symptoms of Chronic Sinusitis
Sinusitis usually causes nasal stuffiness and a feeling of pressure or pain in the face and head. It often causes a thick discolored nasal discharge, cough, even severe asthma, pain in the upper teeth, bad breath, a generalized feeling of fatigue, feeling sick and loss of ability to taste and smell.
The loss of smell — also called “anosmia” — should never be overlooked. Besides impacting daily life, anosmia can hurt your sense of taste, lead to potentially dangerous weight loss and reduce quality of life. Read more about Anosmia.
If you are experiencing any or all of these symptoms, a doctor’s evaluation can help determine the underlying cause. Contact us today for an appointment.