Sinusitis: what you need to know

Woman with a bad headache

Anyone who has experienced sinusitis will know only too well that it is much more than just a headache. The pain of infected and inflamed sinuses can be severe and interfere with day-to-day life. If you are or think you may be suffering with sinusitis, here's what you need to know.

What is sinusitis?
The sinuses help to control the temperature and water content of the air that reaches your lungs. The four pairs in the head - behind the forehead, either side of the bridge of the nose, behind the eyes and behind the cheekbones - produce mucus that should drain into the nose. But when these channels become blocked, typically as a result of a cold or flu virus, or bacterial infection, that spreads via the airways, the lining of the sinuses becomes infected and inflamed.

What are the symptoms?
Congestion in the form of a blocked or runny nose may be the first sign of a problem, but this may quickly turn into more painful symptoms. A sinus headache usually manifests as a constant, throbbing pain, often under the eye or affecting the upper teeth, and it will often feel worse when you move, particularly when bending down, or when there are extreme changes in temperature. Many find their face is tender to the touch, and a high temperature may develop as a result of the infection.

In the majority of cases, treatment for sinusitis is simply a case of waiting it out. Over-the-counter painkillers and decongestants can help to ease the symptoms, but be prepared to have symptoms for as long as two and a half weeks. If, however, your symptoms have not improved after seven days, or if they worsen, you should visit your GP, as antibiotics may be necessary to clear the infection.

Some sufferers find that their sinusitis is either very severe, or recurs on a regular basis. If this is the case, your GP may refer you to an ear, nose and throat specialist in a bid to identify the possible cause. In some cases surgery to improve the drainage of the sinuses may be necessary, but this is generally only suggested where all other treatments have failed.

Many also find there are home remedies that help to relieve the pain of sinusitis, such as using a humidifier, applying a warm, wet towel to the face to ease the pressure, or even nasal irrigation, which effectively helps to flush out the sinuses with distilled or sterilised water by way of a bulb syringe or neti pot.

Most importantly though, don't suffer in silence. If your symptoms persist or you frequently succumb to this painful problem, visit your GP and get help.

Do you regularly suffer from sinusitis? What helps you to cope with the pain? Leave your comments below...
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