Sinusitis is characterized by the inflammation of the sinuses, the mucous-lined pockets of air that are among the bones surrounding your nose and eyes.
Normally, the sinuses drain mucous and assist the nasal passages in warming, moistening, and filtering the air you breathe. But sometimes the passages of the sinuses become blocked and hinder mucous drainage. The obstruction causes sinusitis.
Pain is the most common symptom of sinusitis, and it is the result of air or mucous becoming blocked within the sinuses and creating a vacuum of air pressure. As swelling occurs, it may also become more difficult to breathe through the nose.
Sinusitis is also painful because as your body responds defensively to the inflammation, your white blood cells release more fluid into the affected area. The extra fluid also increases the pressure and thickens the mucous that is already trapped within the sinuses. The thickened mucous puts more pressure on the walls of your sinuses, creating facial tenderness and aching. The excess fluid may also cause the feeling of fullness or the stuffiness that is associated with sinusitis.
According to the Mayo Clinic, other symptoms of sinusitis may include:
- halitosis, or bad breath
- growths in the lining of the nasal passages, known as nasal polyps
- thick mucous drainage in the back of the throat, known as post-nasal drip
- sore throat
- difficulty breathing through the nose
- secondary infections
- dental pain
- pain in the middle ear or back of the neck
Most cases of sinusitis are viral in nature, and develop and resolve quickly. Unless your sinusitis symptoms are accompanied by a fever, severe headache, or thickened yellow-green mucous, your doctor may not prescribe antibiotics, which only treat bacterial infections.
Mild forms of sinusitis may respond to self-treatment with over-the-counter medications. Asking your doctor about which nasal sprays, decongestants, and pain relievers to use and for how long will ensure you get the best results. Extended use of some over-the-counter treatments may worsen symptoms over time, so it is always best to consult with your physician.
As if sinusitis was not painful enough, some thickened mucous from the nasal passages may drain down the back of your throat, especially at night. This mucous drainage is often referred to as post-nasal drip, and it can also cause halitosis, the medical term for bad breath, and sore throat. The post-nasal drip may also trigger a cough or asthma.