What is Sinusitis?

The sinuses are hollow cavities in the skull that can fill up with mucus when infected. The mucus produced in the sinuses usually drains out of the nose. Each sinus is covered with a mucous membrane, which can become inflamed and swollen. The flow of mucus out of the sinuses will then be obstructed, and the mucus will accumulate in the sinuses, leading to sinusitis.

Sinusitis affects many people including children. There are two types of sinusitis:

  • Acute sinusitis also known as acute rhinosinusitis
  • Chronic sinusitis which lasts for at least eight weeks, even with treatment

Common causes of sinusitis include:

  • Anatomical abnormalities of the nose such as a crooked nasal septum, untreated allergic rhinitis (allergic inflammation of airways in the nose), and tooth infections
  • Fungal infections – usually affects people with a weak immune system
  • Viral and bacterial infections – can be resolved with the right treatment in a reasonable period of time

Symptoms of sinusitis include:

  • Bad breath
  • Coughing caused by mucus dripping down the back of the throat
  • Difficulty breathing through the nose due to nasal congestion
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling full in the face
  • Feeling heavy in the head
  • Fever
  • Nausea and giddiness
  • Pain and swelling around the eyes, nose, cheeks and forehead
  • Decreased sense of smell and taste
  • Thick yellow- or green-coloured nasal discharge

Treatment of acute sinusitis includes:

  • Antibiotics and decongestants to manage the infection and restore the natural flow of mucus out of the sinuses

Treatment of chronic sinusitis usually includes a surgery to treat the obstruction in the sinuses. Surgical options include:

  • Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery (FESS) - a minimally invasive procedure that consists of inserting an endoscope through the nose to clear the infected tissues in the nose
  • Balloon Sinuplasty - less invasive than FESS, and a balloon is inserted through specialised instruments to dilate the sinus opening, which help restore normal mucus flow in the sinuses without tissue or bone removal
  • Infection spreads to the eye socket or to the fluid surrounding the brain

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