Sinusitis is an extremely common condition that affects around 90% of the adult population at some point in their lives. It occurs when, for whatever reason, the sinuses behind the facial bones become inflamed and stop draining mucus out of the nasal passages as effectively as they should. This can lead to an uncomfortable or painful pressure in the head, as well as a slew of other unpleasant symptoms.
If you think you might be suffering from sinusitis, it’s worth consulting your GP for advice on treatment, particularly if the symptoms last for more than a week or so. However, it’s also useful to understand what exactly you can expect with this condition and what treatment options are available to you.
There are two main types of sinusitis, Acute (usually lasts less than a couple of weeks) and Chronic (lasts more than a couple of months). Acute Sinusitis is much more common and the most frequent cause is a cold or a virus.
Symptoms Of Sinusitis:
When suffering from sinusitis you are very likely to experience pressure around your eyes, cheeks and/or forehead (your sinuses lie directly behind these areas). This pressure can also cause headaches and both symptoms would usually worsen if you were to lie down flat or bend over. These particular symptoms are often localised to a specific area, which actually can be a helpful tool in diagnosing which particular sinus is having trouble. For example, if you’re experiencing pain behind your eyes or in both temples, it’s probably your sphenoid sinus that’s inflamed.
The next most common symptom of sinusitis is a runny or stuffy nose, and this is often accompanied by green or yellow nasal discharge. This discharge can also run down the back of your throat and lead to a cough or soreness in that area.
Other common symptoms associated with sinusitis tend to vary depending on which sinus is affected. For example, your maxillary sinus is located behind your cheeks so, if it’s inflamed and not working properly, you may well experience a dull toothache.
Less common symptoms of sinusitis include fatigue, bad breath and, occasionally, a fever. There are also a few very rare complications associated with this condition, including infection in the facial bones or brain membrane, and abscesses in the eye socket, brain or nearby bones.
Treatment Of Sinusitis:
Most cases of sinusitis clear up by themselves within a couple of weeks (and you should talk to your GP if yours doesn’t). However, the symptoms can be quite painful so it’s worth knowing about the treatment options that will either help get rid of the condition sooner or make the symptoms more bearable.
The main aim when treating sinusitis is to temporarily improve the performance of the sinuses; this relieves facial pressure and headaches, and reduces the amount of thick mucus discharge. This can be achieved by reducing any localised swelling, removing infection, helping the sinuses to drain better and keeping the sinus drainage holes open for longer.
Natural Remedies For Sinusitis:
- Steam inhalations are a good way of helping dilate the sinus openings and dilute the thick mucus so that it can drain more easily. This affect is improved if the steam inhalation is combined with a mentholated substance. By the same logic, a steamy shower or bath, or even a trip to the local spa and steam room will usually reduce sinusitis symptoms.
- Drinking lots of fluids will dilute thick mucus and help it drain more easily through any constrictions that an inflammation of the sinuses might have caused.
- Saline nasal washes can help your damaged nasal passages drain mucus more easily, therefore easing facial pressure and removing the infection. You can make your own saline solution at home or buy nasal drops at a pharmacy.
Medication For Sinusitis:
- Over the counter medication can be helpful in treating the symptoms of sinusitis. For example, pain medication can help relieve headaches, while decongestants will help reduce any facial pressure. However, you should be particularly careful when using the latter, because over use can lead to something called ‘rebound congestion’.
- If you decide to visit your GP for help treating your sinusitis, you may be prescribed medication if the symptoms are severe enough. If your doctor prescribes antibiotics that means you probably have bacterial sinusitis (as opposed to viral), and the problem should clear up within a few days of starting the course. You may also be prescribed decongestants, painkillers, corticosteroids (a type of steroid that reduces swelling) or a mucolytic (to help thin the mucus).
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