October 01, 2013
Inflammation and infection
Just about everyone has experienced sinus congestion at some point, often in conjunction with a cold caused by a virus. It's unpleasant, but the congestion usually goes away within a week or so as the body fights off the illness.
However, sinus congestion and a feeling of sickness can linger or worsen. This may mean that a bacterial infection has developed within congested sinus passages. Your immune system can usually fight off this infection, too, but your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic medication to help clear it.
Still, not all sinus problems are this straightforward. Sinus infections can recur on a frequent basis, and sinus inflammation (sinusitis) can smolder indefinitely. In these cases, a wider range of diagnostic tests and treatment options are often used.
Your sinuses are a network of air-filled chambers in the bones around your nose. The sinuses make mucus, which cleans and moisturizes your nasal passages. Lining the inside of your sinuses are little hairs (cilia) that are constantly sweeping the mucus through small openings (ostia) that drain into your nose and throat.
Sinus trouble typically begins when the sinuses become irritated and inflamed, causing sinus tissues to swell. Expansion of tissues can narrow or close off the ostia, making it hard for mucus to drain out of sinus cavities.
Once drainage is blocked, mucus and air pressure build, causing a feeling of stuffiness and congestion. The stagnant, moist environment of a blocked sinus cavity gives bacteria a place to thrive and a secondary...
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