Sinusitis occurs when sinuses become inflamed or infected. This condition can make breathing difficult and can also be painful. Healthcare experts usually divide sinusitis cases into:
- Acute – lasts for three weeks or less
- Chronic – lasts for three to eight weeks – it can also exist for months or years
- Recurrent – several acute attacks within a year’s time
Healthcare estimates claim that thirty seven million Americans suffer from some form of sinusitis every year. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention receives reports from health care workers of over thirty three million chronic sinusitis cases annually. Millions and millions of dollars are spent every year on medications to find relief from sinus symptoms.
What are sinuses?
Sinuses are hollow air spaces in the human body. Symptoms occur in one or more of four
pairs of cavities, or sinuses, known as paranasal sinuses.
These cavities, located within the skull or bones of the head surrounding the nose,
- Frontal sinuses over the eyes in the brow area
- Maxillary sinuses inside each cheekbone
- Ethmoid sinuses just behind the bridge of the nose and between the eyes
- Sphenoid sinuses behind the ethmoids in the upper region of the nose and behind the eyes
- Each sinus has an opening into the nose for the free exchange of air and mucus, and each is joined with the nasal passages by a continuous mucous membrane lining.
- Anything that causes a swelling in the nose such as an infection, an allergic reaction, or an immune reaction can affect the sinuses.
- Air trapped within a blocked sinus, along with pus or other secretions, may cause pressure on the sinus wall. The result is the sometimes intense pain of a sinus attack.
- when air is prevented from entering a paranasal sinus by a swollen membrane at the opening, a vacuum can be created that also causes pain.
last update: December 2008
References and Sources: Medline, Pubmed, National Institutes of Health