When it comes to the sinuses, the most common issue seems to be excess mucus. When the sinuses aren’t acting as they should and sinusitis (a sinus infection) is experienced, it generally leads to mucus overproduction and this can be a difficult issue to live with. However, as many will tell you, dry sinuses are an equally difficult problem.
During the colder months especially, we tend to look towards artificial sources of heat to stay warm. With a pellet stove, for example, we’ve found a solution that keeps costs to a minimum while also not getting too hot for any children or pets in the house. However, one of the biggest benefits of this system is also one of its greatest downfalls.
Back in the day, people would keep a pot of water on the stove to keep moisture in the air. Today, we’re doing the opposite because the stoves are sucking all the moisture from the room for every second they’re working away. For many, this lack of humidity dries the sinuses and causes all sorts of problems as a result.
Is This a Problem?
First and foremost, having dry sinuses is unpleasant so it quickly becomes uncomfortable. The longer the problem goes untreated, the bigger it becomes. Additionally, the sinuses need moisture because bacteria, fungi, and viruses are normally kept at bay by a protective layer of mucus. If this mucus has disappeared, the protection does the same and the sinuses are left vulnerable.
As you may know, this all leads to many problems, one of the biggest being a lack of smell. At first, people tend to attribute the loss of smell to something else because they can’t imagine that a stove (or any other source of artificial heat without the ability to keep moisture in the air) would cause the damage. Soon enough, a medical professional will assess their sinuses and find the problem.
Over the years, people have developed their own solutions for this issue and we have three of the most popular here today. If one doesn’t work for you, try another because the theory behind them is very positive!
- Anti-Fungal Tea: If you’re suffering from a dry nose or dry sinuses, your liquid intake should be increased anyway so long as the liquid is water or any other responsible drink. If you can get your hands on it, there’s also anti-fungal tea and this just might prove to be a fantastic addition to your diet.Known as calendula tea, it comes from the orange calendula flower and offers all sorts of advantageous properties. For example, it acts as an anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and antiseptic solution. Alone, the tea should start to improve your sinuses but it becomes even more valuable when partnered with some herbs of your choosing.Since all the ingredients are natural, you can have this tea two or three times in a single day and you should notice a change to your breathing as the day goes on. If this doesn’t work, play around with the herbs you’re using or move on to another suggestion.
- Steam Inhalation and Room Humidifiers: As we addressed earlier, they had a simple solution back in the day and it came from a pot of water. Therefore, why not take from their lead and do the same thing? Nowadays, the market holds some fantastic room humidifiers (and even whole home humidifiers!) to add moisture to the air.If you feel comfortable, you could even try steam inhalation in combination with a neti pot. Before we get ahead of ourselves, steam inhalation is where you hold your face as close to hot water as possible. With a towel over your head to increase the intensity, the idea is to inhale the steam without getting so close you harm yourself. To improve the results, add some essential oils whether this comes from tea tree oil, eucalyptus, lemon, or peppermint. As a starting point, this steam should make the walls of the sinuses a little softer (and looser).From here, you can finish with a neti pot and this is a small container used to rinse any debris you may have from the nasal cavity. With a simple saltwater solution, you leave your sinuses in a great position to become healthy once again.
- Anti-Bacterial Tincture: If you want to fight infection and improve your sinuses, we recommend echinacea and boneset as a two-herb tincture. With a little of the tincture added to water, this should allow you to fight active infection. If you’ve never made a tincture previously, there are plenty of guides online that’ll show you how to get it right.
Regardless of which solution you try first, we urge you to keep going even if you don’t see any results the first time. Over the many years of people suffering with this issue, all three of these solutions have fantastic support in the community so they’re worth your persistence. Typically, you’ll notice a change within a few days and you don’t have to contend with the loss of smell any longer!
Quite often, the term ‘sinuses’ is used in relation to certain medical conditions. However, there aren’t too many people who know the role of the sinuses or how they’re made up. Today, our goal is to answer both of these questions so you’re aware the next time the term is used in conversation!
Commonly shortened to ‘the sinuses’, the paranasal sinuses are small cavities filled with air inside the bones of the face; the bones of note are also found in the eyes and nasal cavity. With each sinus, it has a name that represents the bone in which it can be found.
- Frontal: With one per side, the frontal sinuses can be located in the forehead right above the nasal bridge and eyes.
- Maxillary: Found on each side, the maxillary sinus is inside the bone in the cheek.
- Ethmoid: With the ethmoid sinuses, they sit just under the corner of each eye where the bone lies. In many medical diagrams, they’ll show the ethmoid sinus as one sinus but it’s actually made up of several smaller sinuses in a honeycomb shape; it can only be seen properly in CT scan images of the face.
- Sphenoid: Again, the sphenoid sinus is located on both sides but this time behind the ethmoid sinuses. When looking head-on, they won’t be visible so a side view is required instead.
Physiology of the Sinuses
For each sinus, pink membrane will line the outside and it’s responsible for producing mucus to flush the sinus cavities. With a plate of bone and cartilage commonly known as the nasal septum, the two nasal passages are separated. However, the biology of each passage is the same starting with three small ridges of tissue which can be called a concha or turbinate. Depending on whether it’s referring to the upper, middle, or lower structure, they’re designated as superior, middle, or inferior.
When it comes to the draining, the majority of sinuses use the middle turbinate and the drainage occurs below this point. From here, it goes into the osteomeatal complex. For the system to work correctly, air needs to flow uninterrupted through both sides of the nasal passage since this allows for streaming between the nasal septum and turbinates (via the crevices).
For both the mucus and the airflow that started the process, they should end up in the nasopharynx which is a connecting part of the throat towards the back of the nose. As air continues its journey through the windpipes and into the lungs, the mucus takes a different journey and is swallowed instead.
Structures within the Nasal and Sinus Tract
As you probably know, the human body is quite simply amazing and evolution has allowed it to survive on a day-to-day basis using complex scientific principles. Therefore, it probably won’t surprise you to hear that there are some fascinating structures inside the nasal and sinus tract. Below, we have three very important examples:
- Adenoids: As a collection of tissue much like the tonsils, the adenoids are found behind the farthest nasal cavity accessible at the very top of the nasopharynx. While most body parts and important features of the body grow as we get older, this tissue actually starts larger and then disappears during puberty. However, discrepancies in this process can leave it in tact which has the potential to require surgery.
- Tear Duct: Often called the nasolacrimal duct, this is important for our eyes since, without it, tears would continue to build on the inside corners. When it’s in place and functioning as expected, the tears drain into the nasal cavity and this prevents excess moisture within the eyes.
- Eustachian Tube: As our last example, the eustachian tube is required for removing any build-ups that occur within the ears; with the system all interconnected, the opening is found towards the back of the nasopharynx sidewall.
The Role of the Sinuses
Ultimately, the sinuses have many responsibilities within the ear, nose, throat, and beyond but their main role is to produce mucus. When the system is working as it should, the mucus creates a lining on the inside of the nose and this keeps it free from bacteria, fungi, and viruses. If you were to experience dry sinuses, the lack of mucus would leave the nose vulnerable to these pollutants and this leads to irritation and illness.
Over time, cilia, which are tiny hair cells, gradually move the mucus backwards towards the throat where it’s swallowed. Therefore, the steady supply of mucus always takes the same journey while protecting your nose and remaining clean at all times.
After this main function, we should also note that the sinuses are also important for our voices and to lighten the skull. With everything having a purpose, we’re able to enjoy life without consciously worrying about replacing the mucus or producing the right amounts at the right times. As we learn more about the sinuses and how they work, we get an insight into just how fascinating the human body can be!
A new study proves that your taste buds may predict post-surgery results for sinusitis surgery patients, according to a Penn study.
Taste buds pickup what is called biomarkers, that is, the existence of a certain biological state or condition, such as bitter or salt. The researchers from Penn Medicine and the Monell Chemical Senses Center reported their findings in International Forum of Allergy & Rhinology.
It might sound strange but the team discovered that a genetic biomarker—the receptor for bitter taste—could better predict post-surgery results for patients who underwent surgery for chronic sinusitis. Remember that this seasonal-related condition afflicts around 37 million Americans each year. The condition reduces daily productivity in lost worktime, and is associated with a lower quality of life. In the US, sinus infections cost more than $13 billion in lost productivity each year.
The study found people sensitive to a certain bitter compound reported breathing more easily through their nose, having fewer subsequent infections, and sleeping with ease six months after surgery than those less sensitive to the bitter compound.
Bitter taste receptors are proteins that are found in taste cells of the tongue, where they protect against the ingestion of toxic plant and bacterial products. The collaborative Penn Medicine/Monell team had earlier identified these cells lining the passages of the nose and sinuses and contributing to the natural defenses against certain bacteria.
For the study, patients were asked to taste a specific bitter chemical and report their sensations. Those more sensitive to the bitter chemical than those who were not proved to better fight off certain types of respiratory infections. This specific genetic difference correlates to how much one group is able to combat infection following surgery. Thus, the study suggests those more sensitive to certain bitter tastes fight off upper respiratory infections better, and if they do get sick enough to require surgery, they improve more than people with less sensitive systems.
The researchers warn that there is still much research to do because of the diverse functions of taste receptors, but for now, once an easy test kit is produced, ENT specialists will be better able inform and chose a treatment for their patients.
This is welcome news for otolaryngologists who can correlate surgical outcomes to bitter taste tests in order to forecast postoperative complications and results, and thus choose the best sinusitis surgery options.
Other Penn authors are Douglas Farquhar; James N. Palmer, MD; David W. Kennedy, MD; Laurel Doghramji, RN; Shane A. Morris; David Owens; and Robert J. Lee, PhD.
Other authors are Corrine Mansfield, Anna Lysenko; Beverly J. Cowart PhD; and Danielle R. Reed, PhD, all from the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia.
A new study offers some surprising answers to offering chronic sinusitis treatment. According to the study, those with this condition may find great relief in quality of life with nasal sprays and other nonsurgical treatments. For those with chronic sinusitis, this is great news because surgery may not be the best way to treat this infection. The general rule is: the less invasive treatment is the best response to most conditions.
Chronic sinusitis treatments can include nasal sprays and antihistamines may be as effective as surgery in helping some patients achieve a better quality of life, the small study found.
The study was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and published online Oct. 29 in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery. Dr. Jordan Josephson, a sinus specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said, “Chronic sinusitis is the number one cause for chronic fatigue and is closely associated with snoring and sleep apnea.
Thirty-eight patients with chronic sinus infections were given medical therapy rather than having surgery. “Patients who have relatively minimally reduced productivity at work and minimally reduced quality of life from their underlying chronic sinusitis can avoid getting worse by continuing with medical
therapy,” said lead researcher Dr. Luke Rudmik, a clinical associate professor of endoscopic sinus and skull base surgery at the University of Calgary in Canada.
The decision to choose medical therapy versus surgery for chronic sinusitis should be based on patient preference, and the decision for each treatment should involve an honest conversation between the doctor and patient so that the patient understands the expected outcomes and potential risks.
Surgery, however, can be a good option too for people with severe sinus infections. Surgery is just an aide to the necessary long-term medical plan that is required to improve the quality of these patients’ lives. Surgery can be minimally invasive, performed with local anesthesia. During surgery, the doctor uses probes and a laser to remove tissue and bone and polyps that have developed during the infection and are narrowing the nasal passages.
With newer surgical techniques, these procedures allow most patients to be free of black-and-blue marks, with most going home the same day. After surgery, patients still need their medical treatment because the procedure doesn’t stop the running nose. The best chronic sinusitis treatment is designed for each patient.
The best news here is that traditional treatments, alternative treatments, and surgical techniques that have failed patients in the past have been renewed and improved so that for them new medical and surgical treatments may offer significant improvements for their quality of life.
Anyone with chronic sinus trouble will tell you how it causes problems with breathing and sleep. Anyone can also tell you that much research has been done about improving sinus problems. But what about those with both sleep apnea and sinus problems? In a recent study, published in the JAMA Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery, researchers have found that surgery may help those with chronic sinus problems so that they can breathe easier, better, and even improve the lives of those with the sleep-related condition called obstructive sleep apnea.
In the study, researchers found 15% of people with chronic sinus problems also had the sleep disorder obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). And those who had surgery for clearing the sinuses reported a better quality of life and improved sleep, regardless of whether or not they had a sleep disorder. Of course, this is not surprising for sinusitis treatment. Improved quality of life is the purpose of many surgeries for sinusitis. However, what’s important about this new study is that patients with both sinusitis and OSA have a substantially reduced quality of life, but those with both conditions had dramatic improvements in quality of life following surgery.
OSA is a condition that causes people to stop breathing hundreds of times during sleep throughout the night. For those with OSA, the tongue and other structures might relax too much, blocking the airway and preventing breathing. There are several signs of OSA. Here are the most common ones: Snoring, choking and gasping for air, and daytime fatigue.
Dr. Jordan Josephson, an ENT specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, says, “Sinus and nasal problems often are part of the problem leading to snoring and sleep apnea, and are often overlooked and left untreated.” Josephson was not involved in the current study, but was a reviewer of it. He added that patients with sinus problems and nasal breathing problems “should all be evaluated for snoring and sleep apnea.”
For the study, researchers studied 400 patients who underwent surgery for chronic sinus problems. They then checked the outcomes of those with both chronic sinus problems and OSA. Of this group, sixty had OSA, and following surgery these patients had improved psychologically and with their sleep problems.
The link between OSA and chronic sinus problems is still inconclusive, but might much evidence suggests how air passages through the nose and airways and how sleep affects the body’s ability to manage infection have a lot to do with both conditions.
Peter Fotinakes, a neurologist and sleep disorders specialist at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, Calif., has one theory for the two conditions overlapping, “When we’re asleep, we prefer to breathe through our noses.” He further added, “When we can’t, we open our mouth to breathe, and when you open your mouth, it sets your tongue free.” That freed-up tongue, he said, can fall back into the airway, blocking it.
Does this mean anyone with a chronic stuffy nose and fatigue should go straight for sinus surgery? Of course, not. Patients should try noninvasive measures first, such as medication before surgery. But many patients have experienced tremendous benefits in both disease severity and overall quality of life after sinus surgery. Seeing an board-certified ENT specialist is in your best interest if you’re looking for solutions to your chronic sinusitis and you suspect a sleeping disorder.
No one likes the prospects of surgery, but the good news is that newer surgical techniques can be performed on an outpatient basis without general anesthesia with minimal discomfort and most patients can go back to work the next day. This is welcome news for those suffering from both chronic sinus problems and sleep apnea.
A growing body of research has pointed to some common problems found among western societies: That allergies, asthma and chronic sinus problems are increasing. Although the research is not conclusive, some researchers suspect one main reason for these growing problems is the “hygiene hypothesis,” also called the “cleanliness hypothesis.” This theory states that a lack of early childhood exposure to infectious organisms such as those found in gut flora, probiotics or common parasites increases the chances of allergic diseases because the immune system is naturally suppressed. In other words, the immune system’s tolerance is weakened because it hasn’t been exposed to certain bacteria and parasites that it should have at an earlier age.
Some of the microorganisms that many allergy and asthma suffers have not adapted to are allergens. People who are not routinely exposed to some allergens can develop allergies, particularly as children. When they are later exposed to an allergen, the body misidentifies the foreign substance as dangerous and then reacts with hives or other allergy symptoms.
There are many detractors of this hypothesis. But did you know that allergies and asthma are uncommon in developing or underdeveloped countries yet are increasing in developed countries?
Furthermore on increased allergies, research has shown that severe allergies are connected to chronic sinus problems and asthma. The connection to all these conditions has to do with the inflammation in the airways, which is similar in the nose and sinuses or in the lungs.
What can we do to prevent these conditions from progressing or causing greater severity in the other conditions? There is growing evidence that early management of allergies or sinus inflammation can reduce the risk of developing asthma. Immunotherapy (allergy shots, or now sublingual drops or tablets) in allergic and asthma-prone children has been shown in a couple of studies to reduce developing asthma and reducing asthma attacks.
According to Dr. Michael S. Benninger, “Sinus surgery may also be preventative in some people.” In a recently presented paper at the American Rhinologic Society’s spring meeting, researchers suggested people who underwent sinus surgery had lowered the severity of and even prevented their asthma from occurring.
Other interesting results from the paper include:
- Allergy patients with chronic sinusitis were at a higher risk of developing asthma than those with no allergies.
- Early surgical treatment (less than two years after a sinusitis diagnosis) resulted in less long-term asthma than in those who had surgery later (four to five years after a sinusitis diagnosis).
Sinuses affect the lungs and vice versa. What may cause inflammation in the sinuses may do so also in the lungs, especially for those with allergies. For those with allergies and chronic sinusitis, keeping the sinuses under control helps the lungs, and keeping the lungs under control helps the sinuses. Aggressive treatment, whether with allergy immunotherapy or sinus surgery, may help reduce the risk of developing a worse airway disease, like asthma.
What all this means is that we might be recommending surgery and immunotherapy earlier in order to relieve later symptoms.
One final though before you slather your children’s hands in antimicrobial gel: sometimes a little dirt is good for a little while. Of course, this doesn’t mean they should wash their hands regularly; it means we don’t have to be overly cautious with a little dirt sometimes because it might reduce the development of asthma and severe sinus problems.
Healthy Sinuses: A “How To” Guide
Sinus infections, congestion, and other symptoms can make this time of year miserable. The good news is there are some things you can do to develop and maintain healthy sinuses. Moreover, if you do get sick, the same strategies that keep your sinuses healthy will also help you heal faster.
Drink up. This is important, as drinking plenty of fluids, particularly water, can be one of the best preventative measures for our sinuses. When you stay hydrated, it will help to thin mucus discharge. This, in turn, will help prevent congestion and the miserable symptoms associated with it. Drinking water will also keep your immune system strong. Both of these factors are important in fighting off infection and keeping sinuses clear.
Another way to help keep sinuses well lubricated is to use a humidifier. In drier climates, or when a heating system is used (wood heat in particular), mucus membranes will dry out. This can leave you open to congestion, irritation, or infection. Adding humidity to the air also helps you sleep better at night and also helps to keep your skin from drying out.
Limiting alcohol intake and not smoking are proven to help keep sinus passages clear and healthy. If you do smoke, quitting can be hard. It is worth the effort, however, as the health benefits can be seen almost immediately—and this is especially true when it comes to the sinuses.
Traveling can expose you to a number of things. Developing congestion because you are tired and your immune system is weakened, or being exposed to other people with cold and flu infections, are common features of traveling. By a nasal spray before your trip and keep it on hand. Nasal sprays aid in clearing the sinuses and preventing congestion or blockage. Also, avoiding certain allergy triggers will help ensure your nasal passages are not inflamed. Again, drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your trip will help keep your body strong and your sinuses healthy.
No one enjoys the cold and flu season, but by following a few simple guidelines, you can get it through it with healthy sinuses. ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’, may be a cliché, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t true. Taking care of some basic health needs, and having the right tools on hand, can go a long way to keeping your sinuses at their best.
Chronic Sinus Issues Stem From Unlikely Source
For those of you who deal with constant or chronic sinus issues, you are not alone: There are millions of sufferers in the U.S., with it actually being of the most common complaints among patients. The problem, though, is that doctors have somewhat been at a loss as to how to go about treating this persistent problem. One of the reasons it has been so difficult to treat is that its source was not clearly understood. Scientists decided to set up an experiment where they could learn once and for all where this sinus condition (known as chronic rhinosinusitis) originated.
Over the years, the number of theories as to what caused this frustrating condition has grown. The reasons range from allergies to infection to gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. Treatments to cure the problem also vary across the board. These include things like antibiotic treatments and even surgery to open up the nasal passages. Unfortunately, these treatments are not usually successful or don’t work with all patients. Fortunately, scientists may have finally figured out the main cause of the condition.
While closely examining what made nasal passages become chronically inflamed, researchers found that the cause was something that really posed no threat to health. How so? Previously, it was thought that perhaps some virus, bacteria or fungi infected the area and caused the reaction. Instead, it was discovered that the body harbored a number of bacteria colonies that peacefully coexisted, and that these seem to cause no harm and are normally found in various areas. During their studies, researchers found that these colonies set off an immune system response in some people. Nasal passages then become inflamed. Seeing as the bacteria are usually present, the inflammation becomes a constant factor. The bottom line is that some people have an overzealous immune system that, for whatever reason, attacks even when there is no threat.
Doctors and researchers are hopeful that these findings not only offer a better understanding of the condition but, also, lead to a cure.
There is a health condition that afflicts more Americans annually than common conditions like asthma and heart disease. It’s called a sinus infection, or sinusitis. Perhaps you have been plagued by this affliction. A person suffering from sinusitis will experience stuffiness, headaches, pain in the temples and cheeks, a colored nasal discharge, difficulty breathing through the nose and perhaps even a fever. These symptoms may persist. While the common prescription for sinusitis is an antibiotic, as many as one in five of those afflicted do not respond to the treatment and experience recurring sinus infections. What can be done?
A recurring sinus infection is called chronic sinusitis. It may be corrected with a surgery that is very minimally invasive. This surgery is called Balloon Sinuplasty. It uses balloon-like devices to gently alter the size and shape of the sinus cavities, thus providing relief from sinusitis symptoms and helping to prevent recurrence of the disease.
Balloon Sinuplasty involves the placement of an FDA approved catheter type devices into the sinus areas to keep them open. They are inflated gradually (hence the term balloon) and gently move the bones and tissue that would be removed in traditional sinus surgery. The open sinuses don’t retain as much material that can become infected and result in sinusitis. This is usually an outpatient surgery and is performed in less than one hour.
You ear, nose and throat doctor (otolaryngologist) can receive specialized training to learn how to perform such a surgery. It is vital for someone suffering from chronic sinusitis to see such a specialist. If antibiotics have not provided relief from your sinus infections, be sure to ask your doctor to recommend an otolaryngologist for you to see.
You’ve probably heard it said that you can tell if you have a virus or a bacterial infection by the color of your mucus. Clear means you just have to wait it out. Greenish yellow means it’s time to head to the doctor for some antibiotics. But is this always the case? No.
Many times, discolored mucus is the result of a sinus infection. The problem is that some sinus infections are viral, and the great majority are caused by a fungus. If your sinus infection is fungal or viral, antibiotics won’t help. You may feel some lessening symptoms if you get bed rest and drink plenty of fluids, but it isn’t the antibiotic that is helping. More likely the antibiotic is what is causing your stomach discomfort. At the same time, your body is building up resistance to the antibiotic. Now, if you actually get a bacterial sinus infection, the same antibiotic may not be able to fix the problem.
So what is up with the green mucus? It’s actually caused by iron, which gives off a greenish color. When you have an infection, your body produces extra white blood cells to fight it off. These cells produce an enzyme which breaks down the bacteria. Iron is found in the enzyme, resulting in the discolored mucus. The longer it hangs out in your sinuses, the more green it will appear when you finally expel it. In fact, early morning mucus can be discolored just because you’ve been sleeping all night and haven’t been able to clear it out. So don’t assume you have a bacterial infection just because your first nose-blowing session in the morning creates a discolored mess.
The only time to really get worried is when your mucus resembles pus when you blow it out or cough it up. Just taking a couple of days off to rest and drink fluids is usually enough to get past sinusitis. Try a nasal decongestant or a sinus rinse to recover more quickly. If your symptoms persist for over a week, then a doctor’s visit is prudent.