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What is sinusitis?

Andrew Bellingham

Andrew Bellingham

Pharmacist | 20+ Years | BPharm | Dip Clin Pharm

Sinusitis is a common condition characterised by inflammation of the tissue lining the sinuses, and is usually caused by an infection like the common cold or flu. This inflammation can lead to the buildup of mucus and discomfort, and may feel like you have a build up of pressure behind your eyes.

What are sinuses?

Sinuses are air-filled cavities within the bones of the skull and face. They are lined with a membrane, which produces mucus. 

They are interconnected and are typically found in the forehead (frontal sinuses), between the eyes (ethmoid sinuses), on either side of the nose (maxillary sinuses), and behind the nose (sphenoid sinuses). 

Your sinuses serve several functions, including lightening the weight of the skull, providing resonance to the voice, and producing mucus to moisturise the nasal passages and trap particles such as dust and bacteria.

What does sinusitis look like?

Sinusitis itself isn’t visible from the outside as it primarily involves inflammation and swelling of the sinus tissues within the skull.

But if you have any visible swelling or redness around your eyes, you should book a consultation with your pharmacist as this could mean you have a more serious infection.

What are the different types of sinusitis?

Acute sinusitis

Acute sinusitis is a temporary inflammation or infection of the sinus cavities, usually lasting less than four weeks. It’s commonly triggered by viral infections like the cold, causing symptoms such as nasal congestion, facial pain, headache, and runny nose.

Chronic sinusitis

Chronic sinusitis is a long-term inflammation of the sinus cavities, lasting for more than 12 weeks despite attempts at treatment. Common causes of chronic sinusitis include persistent infections, nasal polyps, and allergies

Is sinusitis dangerous?

In general, sinusitis is not considered dangerous, especially when promptly diagnosed and appropriately treated.

However, serious complications can occur in certain cases, particularly if sinusitis is left untreated or if there are underlying health conditions.

Complications may include the spread of infection to the eyes, brain or nearby bone, the development of chronic sinusitis, or worsening pre-existing conditions like asthma.

Frequently asked questions about sinusitis

What is the most common cause of sinusitis?

The primary cause of sinusitis is viral infections, such as the common cold or flu, though bacterial infections, allergies, and nasal issues can also cause sinus infections.

Is sinusitis painful?

Yes, sinusitis can be painful. Common symptoms include facial pain or pressure, particularly around the eyes, forehead, or cheeks.

How long can sinusitis last?

Sinusitis duration varies: Acute cases resolve in 2-4 weeks with treatment, while chronic sinusitis persists for 12 weeks or more, and require a longer course of treatment.

A woman holds her nose due to pain caused by sinusitis

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