Healthy Living

What Causes Sinusitis?

What Causes Sinusitis?

Key Takeaways

  • An allergen effectively unsettles the slim lining of epithelial cells that cover the sinuses, causing them to redden and swell.
  • If a cold doesn’t go away even after two weeks, you can take it for granted that a secondary bacterial infection has taken over the sinuses.
  • Studies have proved that asthma patients are more prone to allergic rhinitis and sinusitis than people who are free of respiratory tract issues.

When one or more paired sinuses or air cavities within the facial bones and forehead become infected and inflamed, excessive mucus blocks the airways, creating nasal congestion, pain, and the general discomfort associated with sinusitis.

There Are Many Factors That Cause Sinusitis

1. The Role Played by Allergens

It could be something in your food, maybe the yogurt or something that you inhaled, for instance, flower pollen that comes around seasonally, or possibly something you came into contact with like dust mites, cockroach feces, pet hair, or animal scales. An allergen effectively unsettles the slim lining of epithelial cells that cover the sinuses, causing them to redden and swell.

Excessive mucus fills the narrow spaces, creating blocks that trap infection within the sinus cavities. As there is no way for air to move, you breathe with great difficulty. Swelling and inflammation are followed by a headache and a runny nose as mucus struggles to drain out of the airways.

Prescription antihistamines and steroidal nasal sprays help tone down the allergic response of the cells to the foreign particle.

2. Bacterial Invasion

If a cold doesn’t go away even after two weeks, you can take it for granted that a secondary bacterial infection has taken over the sinuses. The healthy sinus rarely catches a bacterium, but it can do little when nasal congestion pushes infected mucus right back up the sinus cavities. Inflammation and swelling become the immune reaction of sinus tissue to invading bacteria. Doctors usually rely on broad spectrum antibiotics to make conditions unsuitable for bacterial growth.

3. The Viral Attack

The cold virus or the influenza virus is more likely to create a secondary infection within the sinus airways. But unlike antibiotics that combat bacteria, we have no such protection against the virus. The flu follows its two-week course and subsides with or without medication, and medicines only help to alleviate the symptoms. The only real defense against the virus is prevention, which is possible only by maintaining good personal hygiene, avoiding sick people, or by getting a flu shot

4. Fungal Infection

A fungal attack is rare but if it happens, it can produce devastating symptoms. Strong antifungal medication is the treatment normally given over a prolonged period. If that doesn’t produce results, surgical intervention may be required to scrape and drain the airways.

5. Dry Air

Warm, dry air, continuously inhaled, may dry up the air passages within the sinus network, making it more difficult for cells to secrete mucus to wash away the foreign particles. It helps to use a humidifier to moisten the air you breathe. Simultaneously, one should ensure a steady intake of water and juices to keep the sinus tissues active and moist. Nasal irrigation using saline water is also helpful in moistening the passage for mucus to flush out the contaminants.

6. Anatomical Defects

Unusual structural defects such as nasal polyps, a deviated nasal septum, enlarged adenoids, and narrower air passages could get in the way of the smooth flow of copious mucus, especially during a full-blown infection. Surgical removal of these defects is possible through endoscopy.

7. Medication That Weakens the Immune System

Cancer medication and drugs used to combat diabetes and AIDS are known to weaken the body’s immune system. This may encourage invading bacteria to set up residence and grow rapidly within the invitingly warm and moist environment of the sinus cavity.

8. Activities That Inflame the Sinus

Swimming and diving to great depths may push chlorinated water into the sinus passages, and chlorine irritates the lining. During air travel, the difference in air pressure between the exterior and the sinus passages, both during takeoff and landing, can obstruct mucus flow and worsen cold symptoms.

9. Asthma

Studies have proved that asthma patients are more prone to allergic rhinitis and sinusitis than people who are free of respiratory tract issues. Inflammation of the airways in the bronchioles invariably translates into an infection of the nose and sinus cavities.  

10. Overuse of Steroidal Nasal Sprays

Steroidal nose sprays work by inhibiting histamines, chemicals produced by the body that trigger the immune reaction in affected tissues. By constricting capillaries, the swelling and inflammation are reduced, decreasing mucus secretion. For unexplained reasons, this mechanism stops working when one overuses nasal sprays. If the overuse of sprays is continued, it may lead to a more chronic sinusitis condition.