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What are sinuses?

Sinuses are air-filled spaces in the skull which is lines by membranes. These membranes will produce a thin secretion to trap dirt particles and keep the nasal passages moist.

What is sinusitis?

Sinusitis is a condition where infection or inflammation of the membranes that line the sinuses occurs. Sinusitis is common and happens even in young children. It is divided into 2 types :

  • Acute sinusitis
  • Chronic sinusitis

What agents cause sinusitis?

Infections are due to :

  • Virus
  • Bacteria
  • Fungus

Other agents of inflammation are :

  • Allergy
  • Chemical irritants
  • Nasal polyp

How does sinusitis present?

Signs and symptoms are varied and include :

  • Blocked nose
  • Cough
  • Head or face ache
  • Soreness in the face
  • Persistent cold with yellow or green runny nose
  • A constant foul smell in the nose
  • Mild to high grade fever
  • Weakness
  • Tiredness
  • Cough which is worse at night with coloured mucous

How can sinusitis become dangerous?

Acute sinusitis may lead to :

  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Chronic headache
  • Abscess (pus formation and destruction)
  • Maxillary sinus abscess
  • Frontal sinus abscess
  • Ethmoidal sinus abscess
  • Brain abscess .
  • Eye – Subperiosteal abscess

How can sinusitis be treated?

Consult your doctor. He may recommend or prescribe :

  • Rest
  • Breathing-in steam from a bowl of hot water (where menthol may be added)
  • Pain killer to reduce pain (paracetamol or ibuprofen)
  • Decongestants to reduce the swelling in the nose and allow the sinuses to drain
  • Antibiotics if bacteria is the likely cause

If you have chronic sinusitis, besides above treatment, other measures may be necessary. They are :

  • Steroid nasal spray (to help reduce swelling and inflammation)
  • Long term use of antihistamine
  • Endoscopic nasal surgery to wash and widen the drainage hole.

How does one prevent sinusitis?

The following measures may be helpful :

  • Remove pets if there is associated allergy to animal dander, hair etc
  • Keep the air humid at home
  • Use an air-filtering vacuum cleaner
  • Stop smoking
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Use a decongestant spray or tablets before diving or swimming
Last reviewed : 26 September 2008
Content Writer : Dr. Nor Mahani Harun
    Dr. Norrashidah Hj. Abd Wahab