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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What are sinuses?

A. The sinuses of the head are a connected system of hollow cavities in the areas of the skull that surround the nasal cavity. There are 4 pairs of sinuses in the head. Also called the paranasal sinuses, each pair is named for the facial bones in which they are located.

Maxillary sinuses, the largest (about an inch across), are under the eyes in your cheekbones.

Frontal sinuses are above your eyes, at the low-center of your forehead.

Ethmoid sinuses are between your eyes.

Sphenoid sinuses are located in the bones behind your nose and eyes.

The sinus cavities are lined with the mucous membranes that produce mucus and have tiny hair-like projections (cilia). The mucus traps incoming dirt particles which the cilia move toward the front of the nose or down the throat out of the airway. This process helps clean the air before it goes to the lungs.

Because the tubes or channels connecting the sinuses to your nasal passages are narrow, drainage through these tiny openings can easily be blocked. Colds or allergies can cause swelling of the mucous membranes and prevent the sinuses from draining. Blockage of normal sinus drainage leads to sinus inflammation and infection (sinusitis).

Q. What is sinusitis?

A. Sinusitis is an inflammation or infection of the mucous membrane lining in a sinus. Sinuses are our first line of defense for the lungs which explains why they are the first to get infected. Your nose and sinuses protect your lungs by filtering the air you breathe and retaining particles as small as a pollen grain with 100% efficiency.

Sinuses also humidify the air that you breathe, adding moisture to the air to prevent dryness of the lining of the lungs and bronchial tubes. They warm cold air to body temperature before it arrives in your lungs. They give resonance to your voice. They also lighten the weight of the skull which is the reason your head feels heavy and you feel tired and sleepy during a sinus attack.

Q. What is acute sinusitis?

A. Acute sinusitis is usually caused by a bacterial infection with symptoms that can include facial pain and pressure, nasal obstruction, nasal discharge, diminished sense of smell, fever, bad breath, fatigue, dental pain and cough. If you have two or more of these symptoms and/or a thick, green or yellow nasal discharge, you may have acute sinusitis.

Acute sinusitis is considered a short-term condition (less than 4 weeks) that responds well to antibiotics and decongestants. Oral and topical decongestants also may be prescribed to alleviate the symptoms.

Q. What is chronic sinusitis?

A. Chronic sinusitis is characterized by at least four recurrences of acute sinusitis. Symptoms may persist for 12 weeks or more and can include facial pain, pressure, or fullness; nasal congestion, obstruction or blockage; and a thick nasal discharge and discolored post-nasal drainage.

If you suffer from severe sinus pain, you should seek treatment from an otolaryngologist, an ear, nose and throat surgeon (ENT), who is a specialist and can treat your condition with medical and/or surgical remedies.

Q. How does my physician determine the best treatment for acute or chronic sinusitis?

A. A thorough ear, nose, and throat examination is essential to identify the underlying cause of acute or chronic sinusitis. Your physician needs to properly assess your history and symptoms and then perform a structured physical examination. A careful diagnostic workup may also be necessary to determine the best treatment option. Other diagnostic tests may include a mucus culture study, endoscopy, x-rays, allergy testing, or CT scan of the sinuses.

Failing to get treatment for sinusitis will result in unnecessary pain and discomfort, any may increase the risk of more severe infections of the head and neck.

Q. What is nasal endoscopy?

A. An endoscope is a special fiber optic instrument that allows your physician to visually examine the nose, the sinus cavities and the sinus drainage areas. Your nasal cavity is anesthetized and a rigid or flexible endoscope is then placed in a position to view the specific areas. The procedure is used to look for obstructions and abnormalities that cannot be seen in the routine nasal examination.

Q. What is endoscopic sinus surgery?

A. The basic endoscopic surgical procedure is called functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS) and is performed under local or general anesthesia depending on the areas to be treated. The patient returns to normal activities within four days; full recovery takes about four weeks. The procedure removes areas of obstruction to enlarge the natural opening to the sinuses and restore the normal flow of mucus.

Q. What is a balloon sinus procedure?

A. Balloon sinuplasty, also called balloon sinus dilation, is an innovative endoscopic procedure used for the treatment of chronic sinusitis and is based on cardiac angioplasty techniques. It can be performed in the office with anesthesia and does not involve incisions, cutting or removal of bone and tissue.

Your physician inserts a guide wire catheter equipped with a tiny balloon through the nostril to gain access to the blocked sinus passageway. The balloon is gently inflated to open and widen the passage. The balloon is then deflated and withdrawn leaving an open passageway and restoring normal sinus drainage and function.

The primary advantages over traditional sinus surgery are that there is generally less pain, risk of infection, blood loss, bruising and swelling. Most patients return to their normal activities in less time than they would from traditional “open” sinus surgery, sometimes within 24 hours.

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