Do you ever think about your sinuses? How about sinus diseases? If you are like most people, you probably answered “no” to both questions. After all, scientists are not even sure why we have sinuses. We do however, know what they are. They are small air-filled spaces behind our cheekbones, forehead and the bridge of our nose. We may go years never thinking about our sinuses until we discover that we have one of the many different sinus diseases.
Sinusitis – The First Of Our Sinus Diseases
Of all the sinus diseases, we are most likely to suffer from sinusitis or an infection of the sinuses. This occurs when your sinus openings become blocked with much too mucus. When your sinuses cease to drain properly, bacteria and other germs are able to grow more easily resulting in a sinus infection.
The most common symptoms of a sinus infection or sinusitis is bad breath, a loss of smell, a cough (which is often worse at night), fatigue, fever, nasal congestion and discharge, a sore throat, post nasal drip and generally just not feeling well. Sinus infections are also typically accompanied by headaches.
This sinus disease is a collection of symptoms that occur mostly in the nose and eyes. You will get allergic rhinitis when you breathe in something to which you are allergic. This could be dust, dander, mold or pollen. When an allergic reaction is caused by plant pollen, it is commonly called hay fever. The symptoms of allergic rhinitis usually include repeated sneezing, itchy eyes, ears, nose and throat, as well as clear, thin discharge from the nose, and swelling of the face.
Rhinitis is a fancy way of saying you have a runny nose. As you might guess, its primary symptom is nasal dripping. Rhinitis is caused by a chronic or acute inflammation of the mucus membrane of your nose. Viruses, bacteria or other irritants usually cause this inflammation. The resulting inflammation generates excessive amounts of mucus as well as nasal congestion and post-nasal drip. See your doctor if your symptons are severe or if you aren’t getting relief from over-the-counter medications.
As described above, post-nasal drip happens when your sinuses produce excessive amounts of mucus. This mucus accumulates in the throat or the back of your nose. It can be caused by rhinitis (see above), ilaryngopharyngeal acid refluxtis, or by a swallowing disorder. Post-nasal drip is often caused by an allergy, which may be seasonal or persist throughout the year. The major symptoms of post-nasal drip include swallowing constantly, tickling in the throat, constant clearing of the throat, broken or cracking voice, and feeling the need to constantly spit.
As noted above, the most common sinus allergy is hay fever or allergic rhinoconjunctivitis. In general, an allergy is simply a sensitivity of your immune system to something that you would normally consider to be harmless. Your body will try to rid itself of the allergen (this foreign substance). The symptoms of a sinus allergy are usually sneezing, itchy watery eyes and a runny, stuffy nose. Typical allergens include pet dander, dust mites and mold.
Nasal polyps can occur in conjunction with allergic rhinitis and sinusitis, along with many other respiratory diseases. Nasal polyps grow inside the sinuses and nasal passages. The most common symptoms of nasal polyps are mouth breathing, a feeling that your nose is blocked (nasal obstruction), a reduced or complete loss of sense of smell, and a runny nose. People who are suffering from nasal polyps often complain that they have a cold that has lasted for months or years.
Anosmia (Loss of Smell)
One of the more serious of the many sinus diseases that you can suffer from is anosmia or loss of sense of smell. This can be temporary or permanent. A temporary loss of smell may be caused by nasal polyps, a blockage of your nose or an infection such as sinusitis. On the other hand, a permanent case of anosmia is usually because the olfactory receptor neurons in your nose have been killed – such as by a brain injury. Anosmia may also be the early sign of a degenerative brain disease such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease.
While a deviated septum is not – strictly speaking – a sinus disease, it can result in poor drainage of your sinuses. Typically, this condition is caused by impact trauma such as a blow to the head. A deviated septum may also be congenital (a condition you’re born with). A deviated septum often causes difficulty in breathing, headaches, bloody noses or a sleep disorder such as snoring or sleep apnea.
Fungal Sinusitis, The Last Of Our Sinus Diseases
Finally, there is a sinus disease called fungal sinusitis that many scientists believe may be the cause of almost all cases of chronic sinusitis. In fact, a research team at the Mayo Clinic looked at 210 patients with sinusitis and found more than 40 different kinds of fungi in their nasal passages. The symptoms of fungal sinusitis are about the same as normal sinusitis – chronic headaches, a runny nose, nasal congestion and a diminished sense of smell and taste.
As you have read, there are many different kinds of sinus diseases. If you want to find relief from these sinus diseases and the sinus headaches that often accompany them, your first step is to see your healthcare provider or an ear, nose and throat specialist. Getting an accurate diagnosis will expedite your quest in finding sinus headache relief as well as relief from your sinus diseases.