By Denise DeWitt / EmpowHer Writer
When we have a stuffy nose, drainage, or pain behind the bones of the face, we often say we’re having “sinus problems”. Health experts estimate 37 million Americans have problems with their sinuses every year. What causes these uncomfortable symptoms, and why do some people seem to have them over and over again?
There are four pairs of sinuses, or hollow cavities located within the skull or bones of the head around the nose. Each of these sinuses is lined with mucous membrane, which is a thin layer of skin that secretes mucus. Each sinus has an opening into the nose which allows air to flow into the sinus and mucous to exit the sinus. Sinus problems occur when something causes swelling in the nose or in this mucous membrane lining the sinus cavities including an infection, an allergic reaction, or another type of immune reaction.
When the sinus tissue swells, air can be trapped in the sinus, along with mucus or pus. This can cause the sometimes intense pain of a sinus attack as pressure builds up inside the sinus cavity. This infection or inflammation of the sinuses is called sinusitis or Rhinosinusitis.
There are four basic types of sinusitis:
• Acute sinusitis – cases lasting 4 weeks or less
• Subacute sinusitis – cases lasting from 4 to 12 weeks
• Chronic sinusitis – cases lasting more than 12 weeks and up to several months or even years
• Recurrent sinusitis – acute attacks repeated several times during a year
Acute sinusitis is typically caused by an infection. Most cases are caused by the common cold, which is a viral infection that cannot be treated with antibiotics. But an upper respiratory tract infection that lasts for a week to 10 days is more likely to be caused by a bacterial infection, which can be treated with antibiotics. Some people, especially those with sinus abnormalities or those with a weakened immune system may also be at higher risk of fungal infections in the sinuses.