You know that your sinuses exist. Whenever you catch a cold or your allergies flare up, the congestion gives you an unpleasant reminder. However, you may not have thought a lot about exactly what your sinuses are, how they work, and why allergic reactions give them so much trouble. Take a closer look at the anatomy of your paranasal sinuses and gain a deeper understanding of where many breathing problems arise.
Where Are They?
Sinus is simply the name for any cavity within the body. Many of these are located within the cranium, but when people talk about sinuses in layman’s terms, they’re often referring to the four pairs of paranasal, or “near the nose,” sinuses. The maxillary sinuses, the largest of the pairs, are just beneath the eyes and behind the nose. The frontal sinuses are located near the forehead, above where the bridge of the nose begins. The sphenoid and ethmoid sinuses lie between the eyes and behind the nose. These continue to develop well into puberty, meaning all eight of our paranasal sinuses do not fully develop until adulthood.
What Do They Do?
Doctors believe the sinuses play an important role in moistening and filtering the air we breathe. These cavities are filled with air but are lined with mucus membranes. These membranes, in turn, are lined with cilia, or hair-like extensions of cells. The mucus these membranes produce acts as a defense against invasive particles and pathogens, which the cilia then carry away through the ostia, the openings that lead to the nasal cavity. But when the body’s defenses are overwhelmed, these membranes can become inflamed.
Inflammation of the sinus linings is known as sinusitis. Swelling in the lining of the sinuses and the ensuing buildup of mucus block the ostia, leading to a buildup of pressure in the sinuses. This pressure causes congestion, headaches, and pain around the nose and eyes. Sinusitis can be acute, lasting under four weeks, or chronic, lasting over twelve weeks. While the inflammation itself is localized, the anatomy of your paranasal sinuses is such that the nerves they reach can send pain throughout the face.
The Sinuses and Asthma
Asthma, like sinusitis, is a disease of inflammation, in this case, the inflammation of the airways. Asthma may very well exacerbate sinusitis, and vice versa, leading to extreme discomfort that will require medical intervention. Though many instances of sinusitis are viral in origin, which only rest and fluids can treat, other cases could arise from the same allergic reactions that cause asthma. When considering asthma treatment options in the Houston area, keep in mind that you may benefit from an approach that treats your sinusitis as well as your asthma.