Sinus problems encompass a wide range of conditions that are typically caused by inflammation or infection of your sinuses. These conditions can then lead to a variety of symptoms that significantly impact your health.
Common symptoms of sinus problems include:
- Facial pain or pressure in your forehead, cheeks or around your eyes
- Discoloured or changes to nasal discharge — it can be thick, yellow or green
- Reduced sense of taste and smell
- Coughing or a sore throat
If you experience any of these symptoms, this indicates that something isn’t quite right with your sinuses. As such, it’s important to identify the root cause.
Some potential causes of sinus problems include:
- Allergies – allergic reactions to pollen, dust mites, pet dander or environmental factors can trigger inflammation in your sinuses. This can lead to allergic rhinitis (hay fever).
- Infections – bacterial, fungal or viral infections can lead to acute or chronic sinusitis. Some viral infections, like the common cold, can cause temporary inflammation, while bacterial infections may need to be treated with antibiotics. Sinusitis is a common sinus issue that is caused by infection.
- Structural abnormalities – a deviated nasal septum (when the wall between your nostrils is off-centre), nasal polyps (growths in your nasal passage) or constricted sinus openings can prevent your sinuses from draining properly. This puts you more at risk of inflammation and infection.
- Environmental factors – exposure to irritants such as pollution and smoke can trigger sinus inflammation.
- Immune system disorders – health conditions that weaken your immune system can make you more vulnerable to sinus infections.
Understanding the underlying cause of your sinus problems is essential to ensuring the right method of treatment is provided.
Types of sinusitis
Sinusitis occurs as a result of infection (either bacterial or viral) and causes your sinuses to become inflamed. There are several types of sinusitis, including:
- Acute sinusitis – a short-term condition that lasts up to four weeks, generally occurs following a cold or upper respiratory infection and is typically treated with antibiotics.
- Recurrent acute sinusitis – a condition defined by multiple episodes of acute sinusitis within the space of a year, often with an underlying cause.
- Chronic sinusitis – persistent inflammation that lasts longer than 12 weeks, even after repeated treatments, that could require surgery to correct the underlying structural issues causing it.
- Fungal sinusitis – a condition caused when fungi, such as mould, enter your sinuses and cause inflammation.