Though many people do not realize it, incidences of any form of sinus disease are much more common as a medical condition in the population at large. The occurrence of all forms of sinus disease is more common than disorders like arthritis among other diseases. The failure to recognize where the sinus is located on the body may lead to a failed recognition of pain in the sinuses - the occurrence of such pain along the sinus is a very common indication of a developing sinus infection in the person.
The inner nasal cavity is surrounded by the sinuses; in effect these can be classed as the spaces within the bone of the skull along the nose. The spaces which form the sinuses are all interconnected and each individual space has a specific opening which drains fluids into the nose. Such sinus openings exiting the space are known as ostia and they serve to drain away accumulated pathogens in the sinus spaces.
The sinuses consist of four pairs of distinct spaces in the bones of the face. Sinus spaces which are found above the eyebrows are known as the frontal sinuses. Sinus spaces called the maxillary sinuses are found in the cheekbones which occur just below the eyes. The sinus spaces occurring beneath and to the sides of the nasal cavity are known as the ethmoidal sinuses. Sinuses which are found deeper within the bones of the skull placed behind the ethmoidal sinuses are called the sphenoidal sinuses - all of these spaces are interconnected and open individually into the nasal sinus.
At the birth of a human baby, all the sinuses are not fully developed and only the maxillary and sphenoidal sinuses exist in a newborn. However, with time and as the body developed, the frontal sinuses will eventually develop when the baby reaches five years of age - though the full development of the frontal sinuses is never completed in certain individuals. At about age nine, the sphenoids will develop and become fully functional.
The actual and specific evolutionary role or functional purpose of the sinuses in humans still remains a mystery and the reason for their presence is not known. Many theories exist with regard to the probable function of the sinuses in humans; some suggest that their main purpose may be to lighten the head to enable easier upright walking in bipeds like humans. This may not be true as other bipeds such as the great apes, with much heavier skulls compared to humans, do not possess distinct sinuses on the face. The other possible reasons for their evolutionary existence is that the sinuses might be playing a role in the ability to smell and in general olfaction, they may be components in the body's production of mucus, and perhaps the serve a distinct sound forming function as in phonation devices for communicative beings such as humans.
The presence or development of mucus congestion within the sinus cavities is the real cause of different types of sinus disease-the accumulation of mucus in the spaces sets the stage for infection, allowing pathogens to accumulate in the spaces. All of the sinus cavities on the face are lined with plenty of mucus producing membranes along with tiny cilia; these are tiny waving hairs growing as extensions of the body from the surface. The cilia are responsible for moving a thin layer of mucus along the lining of the sinuses and thus help in transport of matter within the sinus cavity. These cilia are the agents which move out or expel the trapped bacteria along with the particles of dust and pollen breathed in and normally trapped in the mucus. The cilia propel these contaminants out of the sinuses and into the nasal cavity where they are expelled to the outside. Sinusitis results when some sort of interference with the normal flow of mucus along the cavity comes about due to different reasons. Drainage problems can lead to such interferences as when a blockage of the ostia occurs, in such an event the sinuses will not be able to drain properly. Such interference of mucus movement can also result if there is any limitation on the movement of the cilia within the cavity. Mucus movement from the sinuses can also result if there is an overproduction of mucus within the sinuses.
By and far, the most common reason for sinusitis is caused by some blockage of the ostia which impedes the flow of mucus. Such blockages are frequent and commonly occur following an infection in the upper respiratory region of the body-disorders such as a cold or the presence of an allergic reaction which brings on inflammation and swelling in the nasal tissues can lead to such blockages. The uninhibited use of topical nasal decongestants by the person, the presence of swollen adenoids or tonsils, the presence of a deviated septum-which is a physical shifting of the cartilage running down the center of the nose, the presence of nasal polyps, and the presence of certain tumors or foreign bodies in the nose are all possible causes for blocked ostia's in the sinus of a person. People who have a habit of smoking cigarettes are also likely to suffer some sort of sinus infection as cigarette smoke easily interferes with the proper action of the cilia within the sinus cavities. The existence of certain types of immune-system deficiencies in the person can also predispose that individual to the easy development of sinusitis.
There are two distinct forms of sinusitis which can affect a person, a chronic form and an acute form. The common cause of an acute case of sinusitis is the presence of an infection in the upper respiratory tract. While this is the general trend, in actuality cases of sinusitis are likely to result only in approximately 1 out of every 200 cases of upper respiratory tract infections-at least to the point that they become cases of acute sinusitis.
Incidence of acute sinusitis almost always set in following the appearance of a cold for several days at a stretch in the person to the point hat all the profuse nasal discharge turns a distinct yellow or a dark green color, or perhaps very thick, and foul-smelling in some cases. The affected patient may feel a persistent pain occurring high in the cheek bones, all along and behind the eyes, the pain will also affect the forehead region just above the eyes of the person. The pain can greatly worsen whenever the person leans forward or physically exerts the body. Tender spots on the body which are very sensitive to the touch also affect the person. In some cases, there is even slight puffing along the sinuses in an outward direction. The person may in addition, also be affected by a very persistent fever as the condition develops.
Acute sinusitis can also develop as a result of physical symptoms from a persistent cold, as a result of allergic rhinitis, and due to prolonged chronic sinusitis itself.
Sinusitis invariably results in the presence of a lot of facial pressure and persistent pain in the facial region. The condition very rarely comes along with the presence of a cold or with an allergic reaction. Ten to fourteen days may pass for the full physical symptoms of sinusitis to disappear and the condition usually persists symptomatically for that length of time. The persistent presence of a cold with the sinusitis will normally clear up in less than ten days. On the other hand, the accompanying allergic symptoms can greatly vary in their ability to persist and induce symptoms in the affected individual. Compared to the thin and often watery looking nasal discharge observed during an allergic reaction, the nasal discharge produced during acute or chronic sinusitis is often very thick and yellow-green in color, in addition, the appearance of the nasal discharge during sinusitis is also different to the thin discharge or the sometimes thicker whitish discharge induced by a simple cold affecting the person. A very characteristic symptom of all cases of sinusitis is the presence of a persistent and long lasting headache - though such headaches are also known to occur from time to time with many kinds of allergies and even colds which might affect the person. The presence of peculiar pain along the upper teeth accompanied by very bad breath is also sometimes found to be evident in patients suffering from cases of sinusitis sufferers. Such physical symptoms can be used to differentiate sinusitis from other conditions as these symptoms are not a characteristic feature of colds or allergic reactions. Sinusitis is also very likely to be accompanied by the presence of a persistent cough and congestion in the nasal area, while such symptoms are also often induced by a cold or by an allergy - they are more likely to come along with sinusitis. Sinusitis is also not connected with persistent sneezing behavior and the presence of such a symptom is much more indicative of an allergy or a cold affecting the person.
A doctor must be immediately consulted if any of the symptoms of sinusitis appear or are recognized by the person. There are rare instances of infections arising due to sinusitis spreading out to the facial areas around the eyes to form an orbital abscess or even spreading into the bone surrounding the sinuses - a condition known as osteomyelitis. There are also extremely rare instances of sinusitis infection spreading into the brain of the affected individual to result in the formation of an abscess in the brain. The doctor is consulted to preclude the occurrence of any of these complications in a patient suffering from sinusitis -especially individuals who are suffering from a case of sinusitis for the first time.
In cases of sinusitis particularly among children affected by the condition, there develop visible and very palpable swelling along the sinuses, such situations require an immediate examination by a competent doctor as the cause of the symptoms must be verified. These cases of tissue swelling occur predominantly in the facial region around or immediately next to the eyes of the affected individual. Compared to adults though, the symptomatic display of all cases of acute sinusitis is much less severe in affected children. The most important symptom of acute sinusitis in children tends to be the presence of a persistent cough, though affected children tend to be affected by the development of a very purulent nasal discharge accompanied by a very bad breath. Children tend to be greatly affected by the presence of a very nasty sounding, and extremely persistent cough, this symptom tends to affect children even if the other known physical symptoms are absent, the continued persistence of such a cough may indicate that the child is affected by severe sinus disease requiring medical treatment and care over the long term.
The physical symptoms which are evident during cases of chronic sinusitis are generally less dramatic then those seen during cases of acute sinusitis. The persistent pain so characteristic of sinusitis, is very dull in the chronic form of the condition and is not as sharp in its effects. Chronic forms of sinusitis are also characterized by a feeling of congestion or fullness in the sinuses because of the accumulated mucus. In general, patients may also be affected by the presence of a steady occurring postnasal drip; this may result in extreme bouts of coughing and also cause an irritated and sore throat to appear in the person. In addition, the breath of the person affected by the sinusitis may also be extremely fetid or foul smelling.
Despite the subdued nature of the symptoms it induces, many cases of chronic sinusitis can at times turn into a very serious problem, particularly when the individual concerned are asthmatic patients. Asthma and related conditions can be greatly worsened by the presence of inflammation in the sinuses and its attendant nasal congestion. A CT scan is an appropriate procedure for any asthmatic, who might not be reacting particularly well to the presence of chronic sinusitis; the scan must be conducted on the person at some point of time to determine if the involvement of the sinus disease is responsible for the worsening of the condition. The risk of all cases of acute sinusitis affecting a person tuning into chronic sinusitis cases is a factor dependant on the age of the affected individual - the risk increases in those patients who are above fifty years of age. This risk also increases, if the person suffers from the presence of one of the atopic diseases or if the person has asthma at the same time. The chance of chronic sinusitis affecting the sinusitis patient is increased, if the blood tests of a patient shows a high count of the eosinophils along with/or a low IgG 4 count in the blood. Patients showing these results in their blood are more likely to be affected by sinusitis.