Learn more about this very common affliction.
What is sinusitis?
Sinusitis is inflammation of the sinuses. This causes obstruction of the small opening to the sinuses and then a build-up of mucous. Retention of mucous causes numerous symptoms including sinus pressure, headaches, facial pain, postnasal drip, and congestion. Sinusitis can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or fungus. When caused by one of these entities, the response of the body is to fight the infection. This produces thick mucous in the nose and sinus cavity. When caused by bacteria, antibiotics can often be helpful in treating the infection.
How common is sinusitis?
Sinusitis affects about 16% of the United States annually. This results in 32 million Americans being diagnosed with sinusitis each year. Sinusitis accounts for 11.6 million doctor visits, 1.2 million emergency room visits, and 500,000 surgical procedures each year. Furthermore, patients who have chronic sinusitis have twice as many visits to their primary care providers, fill five times as many prescriptions, and cost the healthcare system about $5.8 billion a year.
What are the sinuses and what is their function?
The sinuses are air pockets that exist in the skull. Sinuses are variable in size and location, though most adults have 4 pairs of sinuses: maxillary (or cheek), ethmoid (between the eyes), frontal (or forehead) and sphenoid (which sits in the back near the pituitary gland). Their function is thought to lighten the skull so we don’t have to carry around so much weight. The sinuses are lined with a special type of mucosa called respiratory epithelium. This mucosa also contains glands that produce mucous and tiny hair-like particles called cilia. The cilia function in moving mucous and filtering the air we breath.
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