Sinus comes from the Latin word meaning a “curve, fold, or hollow.” Our sinuses, therefore, are simply hollow, air-filled cavities throughout our bodies. For the purposes of this blog, though, we’ll refer to sinuses as the cavities located within the skull and connected to the nasal passage through a hole in the bone, called the ostium.
Humans have four pairs of sinuses often considered as a single unit, known as the "paranasal sinuses." The lining of each pair is made up of mucus-secreting cells, epithelial cells, and some cells that are part of the immune system. In addition, the sinuses are lined with cilia, fine, hair-like cells that help sweep mucus and trapped particles and pathogens through the passages and out into the nose.
Besides decreasing the weight of the skull that our spine needs to support, the sinuses perform a number of functions. These include humidifying and warming the air we breathe in, insulating the surrounding structures (eyes, nerves), increasing the resonance of our voice, and acting as buffers against facial trauma.
If you experience a sinus blockage or obstruction, you can expect a number of troublesome symptoms. At Oasis Ear, Nose, and Throat, Dr. James Osborne, Dr. Bryan Smedley, and their expert team specialize in the treatment of sinus problems, including minimally invasive surgeries, when necessary. Keep reading to learn more about all things sinus, and the procedures that can give you relief when you need it.
Sinusitis, or an inflammation of the paranasal sinuses, is one of the more common “routine” conditions doctors see, with about 30 million adults affected. The inflammation can come from any number of causes, including allergy to environmental pollen or toxins, chemical irritation, the growth of nasal polyps, or a viral, bacterial or — rarely — fungal infection.
The problem may be acute (short-lived) or chronic. Acute sinusitis often occurs when you get a cold, which is a viral infection, and it passes within about 7-10 days. Chronic sinusitis occurs when the tissues remain swollen and inflamed for at least three months, despite treatment.
The most common symptoms of chronic sinusitis include:
- Inflamed nasal tissues
- Difficulty breathing through your nose
- Thick, colored nasal discharge
- Postnasal drip
- Pain, tenderness, and swelling around eyes, cheeks, nose, and/or forehead
- Reduced sense of smell and taste
Additional symptoms may include:
- Sore throat
- Throat clearing or cough
- Ache in upper jaw and teeth
- Ear pain
- Bad breath
The symptoms can be exacerbated by nasal polyps, whose growth can block the nasal passages or sinuses, or a deviated nasal septum, a bend in the cartilage that divides the nostrils, interfering with incoming air.
If the inflammation prevents the normal clearance of mucous or blocks the ostium, it can progress into a bacterial infection.
At Oasis ENT, we try to use conservative treatments first, before resorting to a surgical solution. Medications we may recommend (OTC) or prescribe include:
- Antibiotics (for bacterial infections only)
- Decongestants and mucolytics, like guaifenesin, to break down mucus (for viral infections)
- Nasal saline rinses or sprays
- Nasal decongestant sprays
- Nasal steroid sprays
- Oral steroids
- Antihistamines (for allergies; tend to dry out passages)
If, however, your infections are recurrent or persistent, you may require sinus surgery. The goal of surgery is to enlarge the openings between the sinuses and the inside of your nose. That way, air can get in easily and drainage can flow out. Surgery can also involve the removal of infected sinus tissue, bone, or nasal polyps.
There are two primary types of sinus surgery:
1. Functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS)
Now the most common type of sinus surgery, this procedure is minimally invasive and performed on an outpatient basis. The surgeon inserts an endoscope (a thin fiber optic cable) into the nostril to allow him to see the inside of the nose and the openings of the sinuses. If he sees tissue or polyps blocking the passages, he inserts very thin instruments alongside the scope to remove the blockage.
Today, surgeons often use an image-guided system. This allows him to better view the entire anatomy and remove as little tissue as possible. Because of the added precision, the guidance improves safety as well.
2. Balloon sinus dilation
Balloon sinus dilation, also a minimally invasive option, uses small balloons placed at various points along the sinuses to expand and hold open the passageway, allowing the surgeon greater visibility and access.
We use different variations of these procedures, depending on your needs. We’ll inform you of the exact process after we’ve completed your consultation.
If you’re suffering with headaches, sinus pressure, and difficulty breathing, you may need sinus surgery to alleviate the underlying problem. Give Oasis ENT a call at 623-234-4640, or schedule your consultation online. We can help you breathe easier.