Many of my patients, friends and even my own family members often blame their nose problems on their “sinus”. Many people are unaware that sinuses are part of the normal anatomy in their face.
Sinuses are air-filled cavities surrounding the nasal cavity and everybody has them! The lining of the sinuses produce mucous that drains into your nose.
Nobody really knows why but there are theories that sinuses:
- Make your head less heavy (imagine if your skull has no hollow spaces, it must be very heavy!),
- Helps protect your nose from dirt and bacteria
- Helps shape the quality of your voice
The 2 conditions responsible for most of the nose symptoms, experienced by the majority of my patients who complain of “sinus problems” are 1. Rhinitis and 2. Sinusitis (proper medical term is Rhinosinusitis).
1. Rhinitis (often known as Sensitive Nose) is inflammation of the nasal cavity. It can Allergic (due to exposure to a known allergen, most commonly due to house dust mites) or Non-allergic (often triggered by a change in weather, cigarette smoke or perfumes). Symptoms include:
- Clear or watery runny nose
- Blocked nose
- Itchy nose and eyes
- Postnasal drip (mucous dripping down the back of your throat)
Treatment of Rhinitis includes:
- Allergen or trigger avoidance
- Nasal steroid sprays (to reduce inflammation of the nasal cavity)
- Antihistamine tablets (to relieve nasal symptoms while waiting for the steroid sprays to work or when there is breakthrough symptoms).
2. Sinusitis on the other hand is inflammation or infection of the nasal cavity and sinuses. The cause is complex, and is beyond the scope of this Q&A section. It is due to a combination of hereditary and environmental factors. Common symptoms include:
- Blocked nose
- Pain in the face (usually cheek or forehead region)
- Coloured mucous from the nose (yellow, brown or green)
- Decreased or loss of sense of smell
- Postnasal drip
Treatment of sinusitis usually includes antibiotics (to eradicate the bacteria responsible for the infection), a nose wash (to wash and flush out mucous and pus from the nose and sinuses) and nasal steroid sprays (to reduce inflammation in the nose and sinus cavity).
It is best to have your symptoms evaluated by an ENT Specialist if you have been suffering from the nasal symptoms mentioned above for a while.
Your ENT Specialist will likely perform a nasoendoscopy (a simple and relatively painless procedure which involves passing a scope is inserted into your nose under local anaesthesia) to help distinguish rhinitis from sinusitis.
Hope this helps.