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What is Sinusitis?

By C. Ausbrooks
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Sinusitis is defined as the inflammation of the sinuses, which are located behind, below, and above the eyes. The condition occurs when mucus in the sinuses does not drain, or becomes infected. There are two different types of sinusitis: acute and chronic.

Acute sinusitis usually follows a common cold, but can also be caused by bacteria, fungal infections, and allergies. Many times this condition will go away on its own with over-the-counter medications and home remedies. If the symptoms persist for more than eight weeks, it becomes known as chronic sinusitis.

Chronic sinus inflammation is more serious, and is caused by an infection, fungal allergy, or nasal polyps, which are growths in the nasal passages. It can also be caused by a deviated septum, although this happens less frequently. It is much less common than the acute variety, and the symptoms experienced may be less severe. However, chronic sinus inflammation can cause damage to the sinus tissues over time.

The primary symptoms of sinus inflammation include drainage of thick discharge from the nose, or down the back of the throat, congestion and difficulty breathing through the nose, and pain and swelling around the eyes, cheeks, and nose. Aching in the jaw and teeth, reduced sense of smell or taste, and coughing may also be experienced. Chronic sinusitis may present symptoms of fatigue, as well as the classic symptoms of the condition, which last for three months or more.

Other signs and symptoms of sinus inflammation that may or may not be experienced include sore throat, headache, bad breath, fever, and nausea. A physician should be consulted if the fever reaches over 100.5 F (38.1 C), the forehead begins to swell, or if confusion, double vision, a stiff neck, or shortness of breath is experienced. These symptoms can indicate a more serious infection.

There are numerous over-the-counter treatments for this condition, including nasal sprays and decongestants. While nasal sprays can provide almost immediate relief from congestion, the user runs the risk of dependency and abuse. Decongestants are effective in reducing mucous membrane swelling, which can improve sinus drainage. Side effects of oral decongestants may include insomnia, jitters, and increased heart rate.

Some natural remedies used to treat sinusitis include echinacea and astragalus, which are natural immune boosters. Horseradish is commonly used to clear up the sinuses, and can be taken with food, or eaten plain. The condiment will also provide instant relief, but shouldn’t be taken if the patient is suffering from ulcers, or other digestive problems. Herbs and essential oils that contain menthol may also be used for treating this condition naturally. These include peppermint and eucalyptus essential oil.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1002318 — On Oct 25, 2019

Breathe Right nasal strips really help a lot. Try them. I wear one at night and am sleeping much better.

By serenesurface — On Sep 20, 2013

My roommate has chronic sinusitis. It's very bad, her doctor even suggested sinusitis surgery. But she has been getting good results from acupuncture. It costs a lot, but a single treatment lasts her about six months.

By candyquilt — On Sep 19, 2013

@ankara-- Acute sinusitis usually clears up on its own when the cause goes away. So when your allergies clear up, you will get sinusitis relief too.

For the headaches, you can take a mild OTC pain reliever. As for drainage, using a neti (or netty) pot might help with that. You can get a neti pot and saline solution from the pharmacy. Using the neti pot, the saline solution will run through your nasal canal and will clear up congestion. It may also encourage your sinuses to drain.

If you don't want to use a neti pot, you can do something similar by adding salt to warm water and gently inhaling that into your nose. This is great for congestion and if you do it twice a day, it will help you breathe.

By bluedolphin — On Sep 19, 2013

I have sinusitis for the first time in my life and I hate it. My allergies brought it on. My sinuses are stuffed right now. It's giving me a headache and I can't breathe.

I am taking an allergy medication which helps a little bit but I need my sinuses to drain. Are there any sinusitis remedies that I can do at home? I don't want to take any more medication right now.

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