Sinusitis is inflammation, or swelling, of the tissue lining the sinuses. When sinuses become blocked and filled with mucus, organisms such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi can grow and cause infection.
What is Sinusitis?
Sinusitis (rhinosinusitis) is inflammation, or swelling, of the tissue lining the sinuses. In a homeostatic state, sinuses are filled with air. However, when sinuses become blocked and filled with mucus, organisms such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi can grow and cause infection.
Different types of sinusitis exist, including:
- Acute sinusitis: A sudden onset of cold-like symptoms such as runny nose, nasal congestion, and facial pain that does not go away after 10 to 14 days. Acute sinusitis typically lasts 4 weeks or less.
- Chronic sinusitis: A condition characterized by symptoms of sinus inflammation that last 8 weeks or longer.
Common causes of sinusitis:
- Common cold
- Allergic rhinitis (swelling of the lining of the nose)
- Regular exposure to pollutants such as cigarette smoke
- Nasal polyps (small growths in the lining of the nose)
- Deviated septum (shift in the nasal cavity that may restrict or block the passages of the sinus)
- Tooth infection
What are the Signs and Symptoms?
Symptoms of sinusitis include:
- Facial pain/pressure: Pain, tenderness, swelling and pressure around your eyes, cheeks, nose or forehead
- Nasal congestion
- Thick, green, or yellow nasal discharge/postnasal drainage
- Reduced sense of smell and taste
- Pain in jaw/teeth
What are conventional treatments?
Treatment for sinusitis depends on the severity and/or cause. If you have a simple sinus infection, your health care provider may recommend treatment with decongestants. Use of nonprescription decongestant nasal drops or sprays (some may contain steroid) may also be recommended. These medications are generally taken for only a few days at most. Otherwise, they can cause the return of more severe congestion (rebound congestion).
If you suffer from severe chronic sinusitis, oral steroids might be prescribed to reduce inflammation, usually only when other medications have not worked.
Antibiotics will be prescribed for any bacterial infection found in the sinuses (antibiotics are not effective against a viral infection). An antihistamine may be recommended for the treatment of allergies. Antifungal medicine may be prescribed for a fungal sinus infection. Immunoglobulin (antibodies) may be given if you have certain immune deficiencies.
If antibiotics and other medicines are not effective in opening the sinus, surgery may be necessary. Also, if there is a structural abnormality of the sinus such as nasal polyps, which can obstruct sinus drainage, surgery may be needed.
Self-Care Natural Treatments
- Warm moist air may alleviate sinus congestion. Use a humidifier as adding moisture to the air may help prevent sinusitis. Be sure the humidifier stays clean and free of mold with regular, thorough cleaning.
- Apply warm compresses to your face by placing warm, damp towels around your nose, cheeks, and eyes.
- Saline nose drops or saline nasal sprays can be helpful.
- Drinking plenty of fluids such as water will help dilute mucus secretions and promote drainage. Avoid beverages that contain caffeine or alcohol, as they can dehydrate you. Alcohol can also worsen swelling of the sinuses.
- If you smoke, refraining from doing so is highly recommended.
- Sleeping with your head elevated will help sinus drainage, reducing congestion.
Nasal Irrigation: Nasal irrigation is a simple, inexpensive treatment that is well-tolerated, effective, and could help minimize antibiotic use and subsequent microbial resistance. Nasal irrigation with a hypertonic solution facilitates the removal of mucoid secretions. Irrigation with a 5% saline solution produces better mucociliary clearance than with either 3 or 0.9% solutions. Irrigation with a 5% saline solution 1 to 3 times a day has been suggested to relieve a variety of sinus and nasal symptoms. It also results in reductions in nasal histamine concentrations for up to six hours after administration.
Ascorbic Acid, also known as Vitamin C, lowers histamine levels in the blood. In a clinical trial, subjects received either ascorbic acid solution or placebo sprayed into the nose three times a day. After two weeks, the majority of subjects treated with ascorbic acid solution had a decrease in nasal secretions, blockage, and edema, compared to the controls (74% vs 24%, respectively).
Bromelain is a proteolytic enzyme complex from pineapple, it has commonly been used in sinusitis as an anti-inflammatory and mucolytic agent. A clinical study found children with acute sinusitis demonstrated faster symptom recovery with bromelain compared with standard treatment. Oral dosage is typically 500-1,000 mg/day.
- Goldenseal can strengthen the immune system and in fact, relieve symptoms of sinusitis. It can be taken in capsule formor a tincture of it can be diluted with warm water and used as a nasal rinse.
- Chamomile, ginger, or peppermint: teas made from any of these herbs can clear mucus from the sinuses and provide relief.
The various treatments of chiropractic medicine can help people with sinusitis, improving their breathing, their postnasal drainage, their sense of smell, and ability to sleep. Manipulative therapy which consists of adjusting joints to their proper alignment allows the body to return to proper functioning and therefore, to heal. Moreover, a specific nasal technique which involves inserting small balloon-like tools into the nasal cavity and gently inflating them can expand the openings of the sinus.
The focus of diet in sinusitis is avoiding certain foods that can exacerbate the symptoms of sinusitis. It has been suggested that dairy, wheat, and corn promote a globular than planar mucus, disable sinus drainage, and promote antigen exposure, all of which make sinusitis worse. Therefore, avoid these food products.
Updated: October 2013
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- Krouse HJ, Krouse JH. Complementary therapeutic practices in patients with chronic sinusitis. Clin Excell Nurse Pract. 1999;3(6):346-352.
- Podoshin L, Gertner R, Fradis M. Treatment of perennial allergic rhinitis with ascorbic acid solution. Ear Nose Throat J. 1991;70:54-55.