Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinuses caused by virus, bacteria, fungus, allergy or an autoimmune reaction. Although uncomfortable and in some cases painful, it will often right itself without the need for medical intervention.
Sinusitis comes from the Latin sinuo meaning "bend, wind, curve," and the Greek itis meaning "pertaining to." In medical English, the suffix "itis" means an "inflammation".
In this article we will look at sinusitis in all of its forms, its diagnosis, symptoms and treatment.
Contents of this article:
Fast facts on sinusitis
Here are some key points about sinusitis. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.
- Sinuses are hollow spaces behind the bones of your face.
- There are four pairs of sinuses.
- Allergies can cause sinusitis.
- Chronic sinusitis can last more than 12 weeks.
- Symptoms can include loss of sense of smell, halitosis and toothache.
- Home treatments such as steam inhalation can help the symptoms.
- If symptoms are particularly persistent, antibiotics may be prescribed.
- There are a number of reasons sinusitis can occur, including viral and bacterial infections.
- Doctors often refer to sinusitis as rhinosinusitis.
What are the sinuses?Behind the bones of your face there are some hollow spaces, filled with air, which lead to the nose cavity - they are what we know as the sinuses. Your sinuses have the same mucous membrane lining as your nose does. The membrane produces a slimy secretion (mucus), keeping the nasal passages moist. The mucus traps dirt particles and germs.
What is sinusitis?
Sinusitis is an inflammation of the paranasal sinuses.
It may also be the result of an allergic or autoimmune reaction. An autoimmune reaction is when your immune system attacks the good parts of your body.
Doctors often refer to sinusitis as rhinosinusitis, because an inflammation of the sinuses nearly always occurs with inflammation of the nose (rhinitis).
Sinusitis terminologySinusitis is sometimes named in reference to the specific cavity it affects. There are four main sets of sinuses, they are all paired:
- Maxillary sinusitis - the patient feels pain or pressure in the cheek (maxillary) area. This can be experienced as toothache or headache.
- Frontal sinusitis - the patient feels pain and/or pressure behind or above the eyes (frontal sinus cavity). The pain will generally be experienced as headache.
- Ethmoid sinusitis - the patient feels pain and/or pressure behind or between the eyes. Usually as in the form of a headache.
- Sphenoid sinusitis - the patient usually feels pain or pressure in the top part (vertex) of the head.
On the next page, we look at the possible duration and symptoms of sinusitis.