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Did you know...

     There are four pairs of sinuses in the head that control the temperature and humidity of the air reaching the lungs no matter how hot, cold, or dry the weather. Sinuses begin as pea-sized pouches in the newborn, extending outward from the inside of the nose into the bones of the face and skull.  They expand and grow through childhood into young adulthood. They are air pockets: cavities that are lined with the same kind of membranes lining the nose and are connected to the inside of the nose through small openings about the size of a pencil lead.


     Normally, the nose and sinuses produce between a pint and a quart of mucus per day. This passes into and through the nose, picking up dust particles, bacteria and other air pollutants along the way. The mucus is swept to the back of the throat by millions of tiny hairlike structures (cilia), which line the nasal cavity and is swallowed. In the stomach, acids destroy any dangerous bacteria. Most people do not notice this mucous flow because it is just a normal bodily function.


     Sinus infection can be divided into two types: actue (severe) and chronic (on-going) sinusitis.

     Acute Sinusitis: If a cold becomes worse, acute sinusitis may develop. You should see a doctor if you experience the following:

  • Green/yellow nasal discharge or post-nasal drip

  • High fever (102 F)

  • Facial pressure around the cheeks, eyes and forehead especially with swelling

  • Upper molar teeth pain

     Chronic Sinusitis: Patients with chronic sinus infections probably have had one or many prior episodes of acute sinus infection, which have failed to be cured. They may also complain of having a continuous cold. Common symptoms include all those listed above, plus:

  • Low grade fever (less than 101 F)

  • Nasal congestion/nosebleeds

  • Headaches

  • Chronic sore throat & cough

  • Poor, decreased, or absent sense of smell

  • Bad breath

     When the openings into the sinuses become plugged, sinus pressure develops and the nose may feel blocked. This may be caused by infections, irritants, anatomic problems, or allergies. Sinus disease can be common among family members, and stress may affect chronic sinusitis.

What Causes Sinus Problems?


     Most adults will get about three colds or upper respiratory infections per year. Children get them more frequently. Bacterial infections often follow a cold. When the mucus changes from clear to yellow or green, it usually means a bacterial infection has developed. Both viral and bacterial infections cause swelling of the tissues inside the nose and thickening of the mucus. This slows down or even stops proper sinus drainage.


     Air pollution, smoke, and chemical irritants (e.g., pesticides, disinfectants, and household detergents) may cause swelling and blockage of the narrow channels from the nose to the sinuses, leading to bacterial growth and sinus infection.


Anatomic Problems

     In some people, the cartilage and bone in the center of the nose (called the septum) is shifted to one side. If this shift is severe, sinus drainage on that side can be affected. This can lead to complete closure of one or several of the sinus channels. Mucus builds up behind these obstructions and causes infection. If the swelling becomes severe, the lining of the sinuses can grow excessively. These growths are called polyps, which can cause further blockage of the sinus channels.


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