By Dr. Loretta Lanphier, ND, CN, HHP, CH

What is Sinusitis?

Sinusitis literally means “inflammation of the sinuses.” The sinuses are hollow air-filled cavities embedded within the bone structure of the face. They are found in pairs, and are located in the area of the nose and nasal passages. There are four different types of sinuses:

  • The frontal sinuses, located above the eyes, one under each eyebrow.
  • The maxillary sinuses, found within the cheekbones, one on each side of the nose.
  • The ethmoid sinuses, located between the eyes, on both sides of the bridge of the nose.
  • The sphenoid sinuses, found immediately behind the ethmoid sinuses, and behind the eyes.

Most cases of sinusitis are caused by sinus infections of viral, bacterial, or fungal origin. There are two major types of sinusitis: acute and chronic. Sinusitis is a very common ailment that affects up to 40 million Americans every year. The estimated cost of sinusitis-related health care is about $6 Billion annually.

The sinuses are a part of your nasal system. The sinuses are lined with skin that is very similar to that found in the nose and nasal passages. The skin of the sinuses, like the nose, is equipped with tiny hairs called cilia, which work in conjunction with mucous produced by the sinuses. The cilia and mucous cooperate together to sweep the area clean of debris, contaminants, and any unwanted organisms in the area. If anything causes the lining of the sinuses to become swollen, such as an irritant or infectious agent, the normal flow of the mucous and the action of the cilia are disrupted. Mucous can become backed up in the sinuses, causing a sense of pressure and creating an environment that encourages the growth of viral, bacterial, or fungal antigens that can produce infections and possibly result in sinusitis.

The majority of sinusitis cases are of the acute variety. If symptoms last four weeks or less, the sinusitis is generally classified as acute. Chronic sinusitis may continue or recur for twelve consecutive weeks or longer. Chronic sinusitis usually starts out as acute sinusitis.

What Are the Symptoms of Sinusitis?

The signs of sinusitis are many and varied. The following is a list of common symptoms of acute sinusitis. Chronic sinusitis has basically the same symptoms, with the exception of a fever, which is rare with chronic sinusitis. Sufferers of chronic sinusitis also will typically experience fatigue to a greater degree than those with acute sinusitis. General symptoms include:

  • Tenderness, pain, and swelling in the areas of the nose, forehead, cheeks, and eyes. This discomfort usually worsens when a person bends over.
  • Fever
  • Stuffy nose
  • Difficulty breathing through the nose
  • Dental pain in the teeth and/or jaws
  • Ear pain
  • Reduced ability to smell and/or taste
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Nausea
  • Bad breath
  • Redness of the skin around the sinuses (erythema). This is due to increased blood flow to the capillaries in the area.

Acute sinusitis almost always follows a cold or other respiratory infection. If cold symptoms seem to worsen instead of getting better, and linger for more than a week, sinusitis may be suspect. Often discharge from the nose will change from clear to yellowish-green, and become thicker. Facial pain is another sign that sinusitis may be setting in. Children especially will often experience nausea or upset stomachs from drainage that cannot exit the sinuses and thus backs up into the stomach. This can cause a cough and bad breath as well in many patients. If the sinusitis continues for twelve weeks or more, it is officially classified as chronic. While not as common as the acute variety, chronic sinusitis is still considered one of the most oft-diagnosed chronic illnesses in America.

What Are the Causes of Sinusitis?

Sinusitis can be caused by any factor that precipitates inflammation or an infection in the sinuses. The most common causes include:

  • Viral infections, such as the common cold. These viral antigens are responsible for the majority of sinusitis cases. That’s why if your doctor immediately wants to throw antibiotics at the problem (which is often the case with allopathic physicians), they probably won’t work. They have no effect on viruses.
  • Bacterial infections are the second most common cause of sinusitis. Most cases are the result of two strains of bacteria. Approximately one-third of sinusitis can be credited to streptococcus pneumoniae. About one-fourth of cases are caused by haemophilus influenzae. Both of these are very common forms of bacteria, and therefore are no longer very resistant to many antibiotics.
  • Fungal irritation to the sinuses is thought to be the cause of a significant number of sinusitis episodes. There are many fungi present in the environment around us, and virtually everyone is exposed to one degree or another. The key is how our systems respond to the fungi. Individuals who are predisposed to chronic sinus infections may react to the presence of fungi by overproducing certain substances associated with the body’s immune system response. Two of these compounds are cytokines (related to the inflammation regulation function of the immune system) and eosinophils (a type of white blood cell). Both of these substances can trigger inflammation of the sinuses.
  • The presence of certain kinds of mold in the sinuses is a relatively new hypothesis regarding the cause of sinusitis. The more we learn about the toxicity of mold, the more we realize just how devastating it can be. Mold has been linked to many respiratory disorders.
  • Allergies can often mimic the signs of a respiratory condition like the common cold, and they may also trigger sinusitis due to inflammation and irritation of the sinuses.
  • Obstructions of the nasal passages or sinuses can be caused by various factors. Any of these conditions will increase the risk for sinusitis. Blockages are sometimes caused by a deviated septum. The septum is the bony wall between your nostrils. It can become deviated or bent through trauma or a growth defect. When this happens, mucous cannot pass normally through the openings, and thus may contribute to congestion and other problems that can lead to sinusitis. Abnormally small passages between your sinuses and nasal cavities can bring on the same result.
  • Facial trauma can also cause the passageways of your naso/sino system to be compromised, and lead to a greater chance of developing sinusitis.
  • Certain medical conditions can also contribute to sinusitis. Examples include immunodeficiency diseases such as HIV, or cystic fibrosis. HIV can cause nasal and sinus congestion due to the response of the immune system. Cystic fibrosis tends to thicken and increase the stickiness of all the body’s secretions, and this can definitely affect the sinuses.

What Complications Can Result From Sinusitis?

In most patients, sinusitis can be very annoying and cause them to feel quite miserable, and have a significant negative impact on quality of life, especially if chronic. However, sinusitis has the potential to lead to much more serious conditions if left untreated. Some of the major possible complications include:

  • Asthma attacks:  Folks who are prone to suffer from asthma may find that sinusitis will increase their risk for an acute asthma attack. Any time the respiratory system is effected, asthma can be triggered more easily.
  • Meningitis:  This very serious and sometimes fatal disease involves inflammation of the lining of the brain. There have been cases where sinus infections have spread to these brain tissues and resulted in meningitis.
  • Aneurysms:  These blood clots of the brain can potentially develop due to chronic sinusitis that causes infection to spread into the veins around the sinuses, and from there to the brain. When the blood supply to the brain is impeded, potentially dangerous aneurysms can occur.
  • Vision disorders:  If sinus infections spread to the area of the eye sockets, serious vision impairment can result. Partial or total blindness is not unheard of.

If you are experiencing severe headaches, a stiff neck (possible sign of meningitis), a fever over 100.5 F, or disorientation / confusion, I would recommend being quickly be seen by a medical professional.

How Do I Know if I Have Sinusitis?

A thorough physical exam by a knowledgeable health professional is the best way to determine if that nasty cold of yours is truly sinusitis or not. If your cold lasts longer than 7-10 days, and doesn’t seem to be getting better, an exam would be recommended. A lot can be determined by an effective physical inspection. Sometimes tapping on the sinuses will cause pain if they are full of mucous. Another popular test is called “sinus transillumination.”  A light is pressed up against the patient’s cheek, and the practitioner will look into the patient’s mouth. If the sinuses are clear and filled only with air, the light can be seen inside the mouth. If they are clogged, the light will be blocked. These are not fool proof by any means, just time-tested ways of doing a little investigative work. But they are very useful, and much safer and cheaper than other methods such as CT scans, which expose you to large amounts of radiation.

What Treatments Are Available for Sinusitis?

Unfortunately, antibiotics are too often the first line of attack that is suggested for fighting sinusitis. Most cases are not caused by bacterial infections, and the ones that are may be resistant to the drugs. There are also several surgeries that are commonly recommended, especially if an anatomical problem is involved. Be sure that you determine for yourself if this is the best course in your situation before agreeing to any surgical procedure.

Sinusitis prevention and recommendations:

  • Avoid tobacco smoke—both your own if you smoke, and second hand smoke.
  • Try to do everything you can do to minimize your chances of coming down with respiratory infections such as a cold. Wash your hands often, and use common sense, especially during cold and flu season.
  • Use a humidifier whenever possible with a couple of drops of Eucalyptus essential oil placed in the water. Keeping the air moist will prevent your nasal passages from cracking and thus exposing them to potential infectious agents.
  • Drink plenty of purified water. Moist mucous membranes are healthy mucous membranes.
  • If you do come down with sinusitis, expose yourself to steam by inhaling it from a bowl of hot purified water with a towel over your head.  A couple of drops of eucalyptus essential oil added to the water will help with drainage. This simple therapy is very effective.
  • Irrigatate nasal passages several times a day using a neti pot containing a mixture of warm purified water, Himalayan Crystal salt, Xylitol, Baking Soda and 1-2 drops of Nascedyne. This is more effective and safer than commercial nasal sprays.
  • Perform a Optimum Wellness Candida Cleanse.  Many practitioners now believe that sinusitis is caused by fungus.
  • ACS200 Advanced Cellular Silver
  • Oregasil Oregano Oil
  • Oxy SC – Must be diluted.
  • Transfer Factor
  • MSM Supreme
  • Inflammation – 2 tablespoons of Barlean’s Flax Seed Oil (no lignans) blended thoroughly with 4 tablespoons of organic cottage cheese or drained organic yogurt.  May add a bit of fruit and nuts.  Eat one to two times daily.
  • Unrefined, extra virgin, raw coconut oil.  Eat in smoothie.  Can also swab nose with the oil.
  • Vitamins A, C and E
  • ParaPure Parasite Cleanse

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