Sinus & Nasal Center in Texas
Our sinuses are simple parts of our anatomy, just hollow air spaces within the bones between our eyes, behind our cheekbones, and in the forehead. For such simple structures, they can sure lead to some painful and chronic health problems.
Let’s get into what they are and what goes wrong with our sinuses.
What are the sinuses?
The sinuses are four pairs of hollow spaces in the skull and facial bones around the nose. The four pairs are named for the bones where they are located:
- The maxillary sinuses are located on each side of your nose, near the cheekbones.
- The frontal sinuses are located above the eyes, near your forehead.
- The ethmoid sinuses are located on each side of the bridge of your nose, near your eyes. There are three small pairs of the ethmoid sinuses.
- The sphenoid sinuses are behind the eyes, deeper into your skull.
Why do we have sinuses?
Exactly why we have sinuses isn’t quite understood. When filled with air they vibrate, which aids our speech. The four sets of sinuses connect through small openings. Mucus produced by the sinuses drains through openings into your nose and down the back of your throat. This keeps the nose moist and it traps dust, bacteria, and other germs. The sinuses also protect our faces in case of trauma. They insulate the nose against rapid temperature changes. And they provide an immunological defense.
What are the common problems with the sinuses?
Unfortunately, the sinuses can be problematic for millions of people. Among the conditions that affect the sinuses are sinusitis, allergies, nasal obstructions, and nasal polyps, among others.
Sinusitis is the most common problem with sinuses. It occurs when the natural drainage of mucus is blocked due to upper respiratory infections (such as colds), allergies, or obstructions. Mucus on the move is helpful; stagnant mucus is no good. It is the perfect place for bacteria to grow and cause inflammation, otherwise known as a sinus infection. A sinus infection is clinically called sinusitis. Sinus infections are quite common, affecting 31 million Americans at any given time.
What are the types of sinusitis?
There are two types of sinus infections: acute and chronic.
- Acute sinusitis is a sinus infection that lasts from 10 days to as long as 8 weeks.
- Chronic sinusitis is sinusitis that occurs more than four times a year. Or, if your sinus infection lasts longer than eight weeks, it is also considered chronic.
What treatments are used for sinus issues?
Various treatments are available for the millions of sufferers of problems with the sinuses. These treatments range from balloon sinuplasty to endoscopic sinus surgery, from clearing nasal obstructions to removing nasal polyps. Here’s a brief intro to each of these treatments we offer at The ENT & Allergy Centers of Texas. For more information, you can link through to the full page for each treatment.
- Balloon sinuplasty — The goal of balloon sinuplasty is to open blocked sinus passages to allow adequate airflow without needing to remove tissue and bone. A guide catheter is inserted into the nostril and advanced to the sinus opening and into the blocked sinus. A balloon catheter is then moved up the guidewire into the opening of the blocked sinus. The balloon is inflated, instantly widening and restructuring the walls of the sinus, eliminating the blockage and increasing airflow without harming the sinus in any way.
- Endoscopic sinus surgery — These surgeries use an endoscope to provide minimally invasive techniques for clearing blocked sinuses. Endoscopic sinus surgery can be used to straighten the septum, remove polyps, clear the ethmoid sinuses, or open the nasal passages.
- Nasal obstruction — Nasal sprays with topical steroids are used to shrink the turbinates, and topical antihistamine sprays relieve allergy symptoms. But if these are not effective, nasal obstruction surgery can be necessary. This would involve septoplasty to improve septum or turbinate reduction procedures.
- Nasal polyps — Nasal polyps are soft growths that usually form in the area where the sinuses open into the nasal cavity. While these are invariably noncancerous, they can block the nasal passages and need to be addressed. We use nasal corticosteroid sprays, endoscopic surgery, or a small steroid implant called SINUVA that slowly delivers anti-inflammatory medication to shrink the polyps.
Who is at risk of developing sinusitis?
Certain factors make it more likely that you will develop a sinus infection:
- A deviated septum
- Nasal polyps
- Aspirin sensitivity
- A dental infection
- An immune system disorder
- Regular exposure to pollutants
How do I know if my sinus infections are chronic?
Chronic sinusitis is characterized by long-term swelling and inflammation of your sinuses. The signs and symptoms of a chronic sinusitis last at least 12 weeks. This can start as several episodes of acute sinusitis.
How are sinus infections diagnosed?
When looking for the cause of your symptoms, we feel for tenderness in your nose and face, and we look inside your nose. Generally, the inflammation typical with these infections is easy to spot.
We may use these methods for diagnosing sinusitis:
- Imaging tests — CT scans or MRIs can provide details of the sinuses and the nasal area. They can pinpoint deep inflammation or physical obstruction that cannot be seen with an endoscope.
- Endoscope — We can insert an endoscope into your nostrils and then up into the sinuses. This has a fiber-optic light and a camera that gives us good visuals of the inside of your inflamed sinuses.
- Allergy test — If we suspect that allergies are behind your chronic sinusitis, we may order an allergy skin test. This will provide a clue to what allergens cause inflammation.
- Check samples — If other means of diagnosis aren’t providing what we need, we may swab the inside of your nose to look for bacteria or fungi on the samples.
How long do sinus infections last?
If you have acute sinusitis, it should run its course in one to two weeks with proper care and medication. If your infection is chronic, these infections are basically continual. They can last three or more months. A person with chronic sinusitis may go from a full infection to a seeming relapse only to return to fully inflamed status with the slightest trigger. Infections can be seemingly constant.
What can I do to help prevent sinus infections?
There are things you can do to help reduce your risk of developing chronic sinusitis. Some may seem obvious, but following them can truly help.
- Avoid upper respiratory infections — Stay away from friends or co-workers with colds. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, especially before meals.
- Manage your allergies — Keep your symptoms under control, and avoid exposure to known allergens as much as possible.
- Avoid cigarette smoke and polluted air — This may not be possible, but pollution can irritate and inflame your lungs and nasal passages.
- Use a humidifier — This is especially true in the winter with forced-air heating. A humidifier can add moisture to the air and keep your sinuses from becoming inflamed.
Schedule an Appointment
If you are interested in learning more about sinus issues and treatment options, contact our practice today at 972.984.1050 to schedule a consultation today. ENT & Allergy Centers of Texas serve McKinney, Plano, Allen, Celina and surrounding areas in Texas.