Human Anatomy – Sinuses

There are hollow spaces in the skull. They are known as the sinuses, and they do not stop growing until age 20.

In all, there are eight sinuses. Two are in the cheekbones, on either side of the nose; these are the largest, called maxillary sinuses. Another pair, called ethmoid sinuses, is located at the nasal bridge, between the eyes. Still another, the frontal sinuses, could be found in the lower middle portion of the forehead. The last pair is the sphenoid sinuses, found at the rear of the nasal cavity.

Sinuses are not filled with anything other than mucous membrane, just like in the nose. Catching dust and germs from the air, which it moistens, the mucous membrane builds mucosa a.k.a. mucus or “snot.”

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Excess mucus from the sinuses drains towards the nose through a narrow passageway known as the middle meatus. The cilia, tiny hairs that deck the mucous membrane, make a waving motion to drain mucus from the sinuses.

No one knows for sure what the sinuses are for. Some say they add a subtle timber to the voice. Others claim it keeps the head from weighing too heavy, hollow as they are.


Sinus conditions

Sinusitis happens when the sinuses get inflamed or swollen, usually due to an infection. It is often paired with colds.

During colds, the mucous membranes in both the sinuses and the nose swell, producing more mucus. Consequently, mucus clogs the sinuses, inviting bacteria, fungi and viruses therein.

Acute sinusitis has various symptoms, the most common of which are dry cough, nasal congestion, and pain around the cheeks, forehead or eyes. You may also experience headache, fever, upset stomach, nausea, earache and toothache. If these symptoms happen repeatedly over a given period, then you have chronic sinusitis.

Pollen, dust mites, animal dander and other materials can cause allergic reactions in the sinuses. If the sinuses react adversely to such materials, causing nasal congestion, sneezing and itching, then it is allergic rhinitis in action.

Airflow towards the nasal cavities may be obstructed in several ways. The wall bounding the nostrils, called the septum, can digress from its location, blocking the flow of air to the nasal cavities. Or else, the ridges on the septum a.k.a. turbinates, can become swollen, leading to hypertrophy.

Chronic sinusitis, rhinitis and asthma can give rise to polyps in the nasal cavities.

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Treating sinus conditions

Sinusitis is typically self-limiting, in that it resolves on its own sans medical intervention. You can manage pain by applying warm compress on the affected area and taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

If not, you could avail of several nasal sprays designed against sinusitis. A nasal saline spray locks moisture in the nose and loosens solidified mucus. Meanwhile, a nasal wash can help drain mucus from the nose.

Decongestants can alleviate sinusitis symptoms by forcing constriction of the blood vessels in the nasal tissue. They then lessen nasal congestion, postnasal drip and mucus production. If the sinusitis is bacterial in origin, then antibiotics are needed.

Rhinitis and rhinosinusitis (sinusitis caused by allergens) can be treated with antihistamines such as Allegra, Benadryl, Claritin and Zyrtec. A nasal steroid spray can also fight symptoms of rhinitis.

If worse comes to worst, you may undergo sinus surgery, according to healthy lifestyle experts. Surgery is needed particularly in removing nasal polyps.

Tests for sinus conditions

Doctors can diagnose sinusitis with a simple tap on the face. They can also examine the turbinates by using penlights.

Just to be sure, the doctor may require a rhinoscopy, a kind of endoscopy that checks the nasal cavities and sinuses. A sample of the mucous membrane is usually taken from the sinus during endoscopy.

CT scanning helps diagnose chronic sinusitis, even better than a basic X-ray.  CT scans may be taken alongside MRIs.

To check if the sinusitis comes from an allergy, the doctor may order a skin test.

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