How many sinuses do you have and where are they?
You have eight sinuses, two behind your forehead called the frontal sinuses, two in your cheekbones called the maxillary sinuses, two in the bones behind your nose called sphenoid sinuses and two between your eyes called ethmoid sinuses.
What is the function of sinuses?
They have various functions, they lighten your skull, improve your voice resonance, act as air cushions protecting the skull from trauma and finally their main function is to produce mucus that moistens your nostrils and helps protect your from irritable agents and bacteria.
Who is vulnerable to sinus infections?
40 million Americans suffer from chronic sinusitis, which is rarely fatal, but can dramatically lower the quality of life for those affected.
As a matter of fact during your adult life you are prone to have at least 1-3 episodes of sinus infection following respiratory tract infections such as common cold.
So, as a health problem it is more common than you might expect.
What are the types of sinus infections?
They could be viral, bacterial, fungal or the most prevalent one, mixed. If it becomes a chronic infection most probably it is mixed. A study conducted at the Mayo Clinic and published in 1999 found that 96% of chronic sinusitis patients were actually suffering largely from a fungal infections. Fungus grows well where it is dark, warm, wet, stagnant, and a sugar fuel (mucus) to feed on. Which perfectly describes the sinuses.
What are sinus infection symptoms?
Whether you suffer from an acute infection or a chronic one; certain symptoms clearly indicate that you do in fact have a sinus infection.
Common sinus infection symptoms:
- Pressure behind the eyes and behind the cheeks: you have to eliminate first eye problems and eye fatigue before defining your pain. The pain is not related to time of day unlike that of eye fatigue, it would also not increase or decrease on straining your eyes through reading or watching something in motion. As for pain behind the cheeks, you have to eliminate tooth ache which is very easy to discern since sinus infection pain is not related to a vivid problem with your teeth.
- Runny or stuffy nose: The defining element here for you to be sure is the length of the ailment, the common cold would not persist for more than a week, allergies are related to exposure to an particular agent and to seasons of the year. While with sinus infection the runny or stuffy nose might persist for prolonged periods of time far more than a week.
- Headache: Pin point that a headache is caused by sinus infection is difficult, but you should notice that it worsens by the passage of time and it increases dramatically on kneeling down.
- Fever: In acute sinus infections specially bacterial, high grade fever above 101 F/38 C, while in chronic infection you might not have a fever or if present would low grade, meaning equal or less than 101 F/38 C.
- Bad Smell: In chronic sinus infections, every now and then the sinus would release some of the infected contents in it causing you to smell something bad without finding a source for it in your surrounding environment.
- Bad Breath: Common in acute and chronic sinus infection because the sinus would pour some of its infected content in your throat specially during sleep causing a less than welcome smell to your breath which sadly wouldn’t improve with your usual normal oral hygiene practices.
- Cough: As mentioned above the sinus would pour its contents in your throat eventually reaching your lungs through the trachea. This would cause cough for two reasons, irritation to the trachea and bronchi themselves and subsequent infection in the bronchi and lung itself. The cough usually becomes far worse during the night since the discharge collects over the day in your lungs.
- Thick mucus coming from the nose or during coughing: Usually would be colored yellow or green as to the type of infection affecting your sinus, again would be because of the contents of the infected sinus coming out through your nose or being poured down your trachea.
- Fits of sneezing: At the moment the sinus opens to empty part of its infected contents, it would usually cause a fit of sneezing because of the direct irritation to the nostrils eliciting a reaction that doesn’t seize until total removal of the irritant, which is sneezing until the irritating discharge is out of your nose.
- Fatigue: Due to the infection and the struggle of the body to contain it, you feel depleted and tired. Fatigue is a common symptom of many of medical conditions, yet coupled with the other symptoms it points towards sinus infection.
- Irritability: As in prior symptom, irritability is common to happen with sinus infections especially if the infection is chronic.
- Decreased sense of smell: Due to the pouring of the infected contents of the sinus in your nostrils and due to the stuffy and runny nose, your olfactory sensors would be affected diminishing your ability to smell and to distinguish different smells.
- Ear Ache: Usually when the infection becomes chronic it might affect the nerves of the face causing referred pain usually announcing itself as ear ache.
- Pain in the upper Jaw: Very much like tooth ache and gingivitis in severity and quality, upper jaw pain happens with sinusitis especially when it becomes chronic. Usually differentiated by the presence of the other symptoms.
- Puffiness and swelling of the upper areas of the face: Due to the inflammatory element of the infection, swelling and facial edema might happen in either acute or chronic sinus infections.
What other diseases share common symptoms with sinus infection and how to differentiate?
This is what is called a differential diagnosis to a disease. Usually upper respiratory tract infections would share symptoms with sinus infections and list of them are:
- Common Cold: Even though sinus infections are sharing a lot of common symptoms with Common cold, the defining factor is time. Common cold usually self resolves within a week, sinus infections tend to pass that mark by a lot of days.
- Acute Bronchitis: Infection in the lungs and bronchi share also some symptoms with sinus infections, in fact it is quite common for both to present together. But unlike sinus infections all the symptoms related to the nose and face would not be present in an isolated acute bronchitis.
- Tonsillitis: The main difference here the lack of symptoms relating to the nose plus the presence of difficulty in swallowing and you can even sense the tonsils below your jaw line at the point it meet your neck line.
- Allergies: Like allergic Rhinitis, this is allergy of the nose. In allergy, time is an important aspect as well as history of illness. Time is important because sinus infection it is prolonged and the onset of the symptoms builds up over time unlike in allergy which has a sudden onset. History of illness is also important because sinus infections have to follow an upper respiratory tract infection, again unlike allergy which again just happens.
- Migraine headache: Usually migraine might be confused with chronic sinus infections, yet the main difference is the lack of respiratory tract symptoms.
Understanding and knowing sinus infection symptoms is the beginning to better health. Other ailments might be sharing common symptoms with sinus infections, and we recommend evaluation by your medical professional.