How Do Sinus Problems Begin?
May 22nd, 2020 by Candis Hall
Sinuses are four paired pockets filled with air located in the bones that surround your eyes and nose. They include the frontal, maxillary, sphenoid, and ethmoid and are named for the respective bones they are located within. The main function of sinuses is to filter the air we breathe. Sinuses contain small hairs, called cilia, when act like scrubbers to help catch and contain dust, pollen, debris, and other unwanted material before it enters our lungs.
What is a Sinus Infection
Sinus infections, also called sinusitis, occur when viruses, bacteria, or allergens invade and infect the space within your sinuses. Infections often occur when the sinuses become blocked or congested, as pathogens can more easily accumulate and multiply in those situations. While viruses are the most common cause of acute sinus infections according to the National Institute of Health, bacteria, fungi, and allergens can also play a role.
Common causes of sinus infections include:
- Influenza virus
- Parainfluenza virus
- Streptococcus pneumoniae
- Haemophilus influenzae
Essentially, any pathogen that you can inhale can cause sinus problems. In addition, the body’s immune response to allergens like dust, dander, or pollen can also trigger sinusitis, if the response is severe enough. Patients with asthma also tend to experience sinus infections at a greater rate than patients without it.
What Will I Notice if I Have a Sinus Infection?
Although any number of pathogens can create sinus problems, you will likely notice similar symptoms regardless of the cause.
The main signs of a sinus infection include:
- Pain or pressure around your eyes or nose
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose with green or dark mucous
- Loss of sense of smell or taste
- Dental pain
- Bad breath
From this list, “dental pain” may appear strange to you. If your sinuses are located around your nose, why would inflammation there cause dental pain?
The floor of your maxillary sinuses is located about your upper palate, so pain in your upper molars could indicate a problem in your sinus, rather than your teeth. According to the Mayo Clinic, this is because pressure from the inflamed sinus pushes on the nerves of the upper mouth, triggering a sensation of discomfort or pain.
If you go to your dentist with a toothache (especially if multiple teeth hurt at once) and he or she cannot find a dental cause for the pain, it is likely a sinus infection.
How do Sinus Problems Begin?
As mentioned above, many different viruses and bacteria can create sinus problems. These pathogens are much more likely to invade and multiply if there is some clog or stagnation within your sinus cavities. The first symptoms of a sinus problem could closely resemble those of the common cold. However, while a cold will generally clear up in a week or so, sinus infections can linger for weeks or months without proper treatment.
It may seem counter intuitive, but most of the actual symptoms of a sinus problem that you notice are generated by your body’s own immune system responding to an infection or allergen. All the swelling, mucous, and fever that accompany sinus infections are a result of your body releasing white blood cells, histamines, the complement cascade, and other pro-inflammatory factors to help respond to the infection.
Essentially, your body notices that there is either a pathogen (like a virus or bacteria) or an allergen (which is treats the same as it would a pathogen) within your sinus cavity. An immune response is triggered, causing blood vessels in the area to dilate allowing white blood cells and histamines to enter the area and begin combating the intruding pathogen. This, along with the buildup of mucous and pus generated by the immune response, is what you feel as pressure, heat, and pain in the area.
Finding the cause of sinus inflammation, treating it if possible, and mitigating the body’s immune response are all portions of the effective treatment of sinus problems.
Sinus Treatment Specialists
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms and need sinus treatments in NJ, please reach out to our office. Treatment is dependent on the severity of the infection and can range from in-office drainage to an antibiotic prescription to surgery in the most severe cases.
At their worst, sinus problems can be mentally and physically debilitating for patients. They require expert diagnosis, testing, and treatment. In extremely rare cases, sinus problems can be a sign of malignancies like carcinomas.
Time is an important resource when it comes to diagnosing and treating sinus issues, so any sinus concerns you have should receive prompt medical attention.