The Nose Knows: or does it? from Pockets In the Face

Created date

March 17th, 2009
Man with sinus problems

Ok so the title of the blog makes no sense to you, right? But it will if you are starting to feel clogged around your nose and eyes, feel pressure, kind of like a headache in your face? Welcome to my world, a world of allergies and sinusitis. It's not the economy, nor Rush Limbaugh's mouth, nor polls, nor politics, but maybe it is the weather. I have long been a sufferer of sinus problems and recently got on of those "nettie pots" where you put warm salt water in the pot that has a spout that fits in your nose so you can wash out your sinuses. Gross as that sounds, for me, it works. A miracle and not costly! Who knew? Recently one of our health reporters for the Erickson Tribune did a story on Sinus issues. Elizabeth Janney is the author and I am reprinting some of the article here for those of you who are among this elite group (don't you love it when people give a good name to a bad problem?) of sinus sufferers.

Pockets in the face: Turning sinusitis inside out Often we don t notice something until it breaks. Or, in the case of the sinuses, until they clog. Sinuses are air-filled pockets within the bones of the face. Nobody knows for sure why we have them, but there are several speculations. "The most commonly accepted theory is that the sinuses act as a protective barrier for the brain against facial trauma," says Amber Luong, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of otorhinolaryngology at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. "It is also thought that the sinuses serve as a chamber for vocal vibrations. They may contribute to the humidification and warming of inhaled air too. In addition, they can serve as a buffer from rapid temperature change between inhaled air and sensitive structures like the tooth roots. Finally, the sinuses may reduce the weight of the front of the skull." '

Stopped up: Sinusitis occurs when the lining of the nose swells. The inflammation could be the result of allergies, irritants (e.g., smoke), dental infections, growths in the nose, or the common cold. Once the lining has swelled, mucus which coats and protects the sinuses and nasal cavity has a hard time traveling through the sinuses. ' "Normally, we produce quite a bit of mucus, but we don t notice it because it drains," says David Hauswirth, M.D., assistant professor in the division of allergy medicine at Ohio State University in Columbus. "When the drain gets blocked, it can be a setup for an infection." The major symptoms of sinusitis are thick nasal discharge that is yellow or green; facial congestion, heaviness, pressure, or pain; decreased sense of smell/taste; and impaired ability to breathe through the nose. Other signs are bad breath, headache, ear pain, fatigue, cough, and dental pain. "Often a person s upper teeth will hurt because the sinuses in the cheek become inflamed and infected, so they bump up against the top teeth," says Hauswirth. New research has also shown that some aches and pains can be attributed to sinusitis. "Bodily pain is not listed as a symptom of chronic sinusitis in general medical texts, and as a result, patients are sometimes diagnosed with unrelated conditions like arthritis or depression," says Alexander Chester, M.D., clinical professor at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. "We found [in a comprehensive study] that the daily experience of bodily pain was much more common in people with sinusitis than in the overall population. Confirmation that aches and pains occur with sinusitis is a relief to many people who thought they had two separate illnesses." Getting a diagnosis: Since the symptoms can be attributed to many other problems, how do doctors pinpoint sinusitis? "Right now, sinusitis is still a clinical diagnosis, meaning we talk to people, we get the symptoms, and we decide," Hauswirth says. People who think they may have sinusitis should be prepared to describe what is going on and how long they have been experiencing symptoms. "Usually after seven days of having a stuffy nose, we consider sinusitis," says Erickson Health physician Shaveta Kotwal, M.D. In addition to listening to the account of the problem, the physician may use a small nasal telescope to see inside the person s nose. In some cases, a computerized tomographic scan (CT scan) of the nose and sinuses may be necessary. Sinus relief "We typically treat the symptoms with nasal saline and decongestants, Tylenol, antihistamines, and nasal steroids," says Kotwal. "If symptoms aren t getting better once a week has passed, we start people on antibiotics. Antibiotics are usually given for 10 to 12 days, and that should make it better." People who have sinusitis and are waiting out the pain may want to reconsider. "If it is not treated and it doesn t get better, there can be complications," says Kotwal. "It can spread to the bone and the rest of the face, killing tissues there. It can also spread to the skull area, causing meningitis. If symptoms don t get better within a week, people should go to the doctor."

Clear out your sinuses at home ' Blow your nose ' Inhale steam ' Drink six to eight glasses of water a day ' Use a saline nasal wash