What is sinusitis?

Sinusitis is a condition characterised by inflammation of the paranasal sinuses which are the cavities located behind the forehead, cheeks and eyes. It occurs as a result of infection by viruses, fungi or bacteria.

There are two types of sinusitis:

  • Acute sinusitis – when the symptoms are present for four weeks or less. It is caused by bacteria that proliferate in the paranasal sinuses.
  • Chronic sinusitis – occurs for more than 12 weeks and the causes can include infection, nasal polyps or a deviated nasal septum.

What are the symptoms of sinusitis?

The main symptoms of sinusitis are:

  • Bad breath
  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Pain and swelling on your cheeks, eyes and forehead
  • Fever
  • A headache
  • Fatigue
  • A cough (which gets worse at night)
  • A sore throat
  • Congestion and nasal discharge

What causes sinusitis?

The cause of sinusitis is an infection caused by viruses, fungi or bacteria. When the paranasal openings are blocked, bacteria or other microorganisms can easily grow.

Obstruction of the paranasal openings may be due to:

  • The small hairs of the paranasal sinuses do not manage to remove the mucus properly.
  • Colds and allergies can cause too much production or mucus.
  • A deviated nasal septum, a nasal bone spur or nasal polyps.

Can sinusitis be prevented?

The best way to prevent sinusitis is to avoid coming down with a cold. If you cannot avoid them, it is important to treat them quickly. Some tips to prevent sinusitis are:

  • Reduce stress
  • Wash hands frequently
  • Avoid smoke and pollutants
  • Take decongestants during an upper respiratory infection
  • Use a humidifier to increase the humidity in the nose

What is the treatment for sinusitis?

In general, sinusitis heals on its own and self-care can manage the discomfort, however, if it persists antibiotics can be prescribed.

Some self-care techniques include:

  • Rest
  • Lots of fluids to stay hydrated
  • Apply a warm compress to your face
  • Ensure your nasal passages are drained
  • Sleep with your head elevated
  • Use over-the-counter painkillers to manage any pain

If the symptoms do not disappear with the treatment, it may become necessary to perform surgery to enlarge the opening and to drain the sinuses.