Stuffiness, headache, and puffy eyes may be more than just lack of sleep. Although these symptoms are commonly associated with poor sleep, it can also be due to a medical condition called sinusitis. Sinusitis can sometimes cause pain but it is usually not serious and brought about by inflammation of the sinuses. Swelling of the sinuses can be caused by an allergen such as dust or smoke but it can also be caused by microorganisms such as bacteria or virus.
What are sinuses and where are they located?
A sinus is an air-filled space located in different areas in the skull. Specifically, sinuses are located behind the forehead, eyes, nasal bones, and cheeks and these are lined with mucous membranes. Sinuses do not contain any microorganisms and air circulates freely within the space. Mucous is also able to drain out of the space under normal conditions.
What causes sinusitis?
In the United States, roughly 37,000,000 individuals suffer from sinusitis at least once a year. In adults, the most common causes of sinusitis include smoking and infections. In children, sinusitis can often be attributed to environmental factors such as allergy from smoke and dust, illnesses acquired from other children such as those in daycare centers, and drinking while lying on one’s back. Some individuals have a higher risk of developing sinusitis such as those with nasal polyps, those who have a weakened immune system, and those who have narrow or obstructed drainage ducts in the sinuses.
Sinusitis can be caused by improper function of the cilia in the sinuses. Cilia are the small hairs in the mucous membranes lining the sinuses that help move mucous out. Mucous can cause obstruction of the sinus openings leading to mucous buildup in the sinus and making it more favorable for growth of bacteria and other disease-causing microorganisms. Colds and allergy such as allergic rhinitis can also cause sinusitis by causing excessive mucous production or obstruction in the sinus openings. Nasal polyps, bone spurs in the nasal area, and structural abnormalities such as deviated nasal septum can also cause obstruction of the sinus openings.
What happens in individuals with sinusitis?
Sinusitis can be acute, sub-acute, or chronic. Acute sinusitis causes symptoms that last up to four weeks and is usually caused by bacterial infection. Sub-acute sinusitis causes symptoms that last for four to twelve weeks while chronic sinusitis causes symptoms for at least three months and can be caused by bacteria or fungi.
Acute sinusitis usually presents with symptoms such as nasal discharge, nasal congestion, pressure-like pain which may be felt in the form of headache (sinus headache), toothache, eye pain, or facial tenderness, sore throat, fever, cough which gets worse at night, and bad breath. In its chronic form, the sinus symptoms are generally the same but are milder and last longer than twelve weeks.
What is the treatment for sinusitis?
Treatment for sinusitis depends on the cause of the condition. If sinus symptoms are caused by bacteria, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. If the sinusitis is caused by allergy, then it may be necessary to take antihistamines. Several measures can also be done at home to help relieve sinus symptoms such as congestion and pain.
A moist washcloth that has been warmed can be applied to the face to help relieve pain in the sinus area affected. Saline nose drops or nasal spray can also be applied to the nasal passages to keep it moist. A cool mist humidifier can also help relieve swollen sinuses. Pain relievers such as ibuprofen are also useful if the pain gets unbearable. A decongestant can also help although take care to use it for only 3 to 5 days as excessive use can also cause nasal congestion to get worse.
It is always better to prevent sinusitis rather than cure it. Individuals with allergies should take care to avoid triggers such as smoke, dust, and animal dander to prevent it from causing sinusitis. Since colds can also cause sinusitis, it is important to boost one’s immune system by eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and avoiding tobacco smoke. Practicing proper hand washing is also an effective way of preventing the spread of germs which can cause colds and sinusitis.