The sinuses are one among a dozen or so body parts that are, as Darwin puts it, “useless or nearly useless.” Though there isn’t much to go off of, science has come up with a few best guesses as to why we have sinuses. Some of these guesses include resonance in our voices, reduced weight in the skull, protection of the brain against blows to face, and according to Charles Katz, MD, an allergy specialist at Alta View Hospital, keeping ear, nose and throat doctors in business.
“The question of why we have sinuses may still be a mystery,” he said, “but luckily for us, medicines and procedures to help people with sinus problems are improving every day. There’s relief for those who are suffering.”
What are common sinus problems?
- Sinus blockages. Each sinus has a narrow spot that’s responsible for drainage. If a blockage occurs in the transition of any of the sinuses, mucus backs up.
- Deviated nasal septum. People get a deviated nasal septum when the thin wall between your nostrils is displaced to one side. Such a problem may lead to other problems such as obstructed breathing and snoring.
- Narrow sinuses. Many people have variations in their anatomy that creates a longer, narrower path for the transition spaces to drain.
- Sinus allergies. This sensitivity triggers a dilation of blood vessels in the nose, and sometimes releases chemicals from cells in the nose that cause swelling.
- Sinusitis or sinus infections. Sinusitis is caused by virus, bacteria, or fungus, which grows within a sinus and causes blockage of the sinus. It also causes inflammation in the air cavities of the nose.
How do sinus problems begin?
Many sinus problems, especially sinusitis, begin due to a cold and usually appear after seven to 10 days. Physicians usually diagnose a person with chronic sinusitis if the symptoms have lingered for more than three months. Some of the symptoms include fever, constant nasal discharge that is often yellow or green, puffy eyes, and bad breath.
What are the cures?
As with most problems and diseases, many things can be done to give you the relief you’re looking for, many of which can be done at home.
“Even when people come see us at the hospital, we recommend several home remedies they may have overlooked that will help them avoid the unnecessary risks associated with decongestants, antihistamines, antibiotics, and steroids,” said Dr. Katz. “We take things in steps, and if nothing else works, surgery is a great option.”
- Try putting a warm cloth on your face
- Drink a lot of water
- Sit in the bathroom while a hot shower is going
- Use a nasal saline spray
- Wash the nose with a combination of salt and distilled water
- Try a humidifier
If you feel your problems are connected to allergies, consider the following:
- Avoid things in your house and outside that trigger your allergies
- Try over-the-counter medications such as antihistamines and decongestants
- Another option is allergy shots. Some clinics like the one at Alta View Hospital have allergists on their campus you can talk to
- The last option is surgery.
“If and when your sinus problems aren’t getting better and we start talking about surgery, we’ll investigate more by getting a CT scan done,” said Dr. Katz. “The images we retrieve from the scan give us a better picture of what’s going on and how to proceed.”