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Sinus (anatomy): Wikis


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Sinus is Latin for "bay", "pocket", "curve", or "bosom". In anatomy, the term is used in various contexts.

A sinus is a sack or cavity in any organ or tissue, or an abnormal cavity or passage caused by the destruction of tissue. In common usage, "sinus" usually refers to the paranasal sinuses, which are air cavities in the cranial bones, especially those near the nose and connecting to it.

The term is also used for a chronically infected tract such as a passage between an abscess and the skin. It is however distinct from a fistula, which is a tract connecting two epithelialised surfaces. It can also affect the chest and lungs.


Other sinuses in the body


The sinuses can become inflamed, which leads to an infection called sinusitis. Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinuses and nasal passages (WebMD). This inflammation causes pressure. The pressure is often experience in the cheek area, eyes, nose, on one side of the head, and can result in a severe headache.

According to WebMD, the human skull contains 4 major pairs of hollow air-filled sacks called sinuses that connect the space between the nostrils and the nasal passage. These sinuses reduce the skulls weight, help insulate the skull, and allow the voice to resonate within it (WebMD). These sinuses are:

  • Frontal sinuses (in the forehead)
  • Maxillary sinuses (behind the cheek bones)
  • Ethmoid sinuses (between the eyes)
  • Sphenoid sinuses (behind the eyes)

Sinusitis is either acute, which is usually the result of a viral infection in the upper respiratory tract, or chronic. Allergens, which are allergy causing substances, can also cause acute sinusitis. A person with this infection often has nasal congestion with thick nasal secretions, fever, and cough (WebMD). Patients can be treated by “reducing the swelling or inflammation in the nasal passages and sinuses, eliminating the infection, promoting drainage from the sinuses, and maintaining open sinuses” (WebMD). Sinusitis can be treated with medications and can also be eliminated by surgery.

The cause of sinus infection is bacteria in the lining cells of the sinuses. The bacteria, that is in the nasal passage, somehow enters the sinuses and results in inflammation. Normally the sinuses contain defenses against bacteria, germs, and other foreign viruses. “Bacteria that normally cause acute sinusitis are Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, and Moraxella catarrhalis (WebMD) These microorganisms, along with Staphylococcus aureus and some anaerobes (bacteria that live without oxygen), are involved in chronic sinusitis (WebMD).” Fungi can also cause chronic sinusitis.


Sinus Infection Treatment

Home care can help open the sinuses and alleviate their dryness.

  • Promote drainage:

Drink plenty of water and hydrating beverages such as hot tea. Inhale steam two to four times per day by leaning over a bowl of hot water (not while the water is on the stove) or using a steam vaporizer. Inhale the steam for about 10 minutes. Taking a hot, steamy shower may also work. Mentholated preparations, such as Vicks Vapo-Rub, can be added to the water or vaporizer to aid in opening the passageways.

  • Thin the mucus:

Expectorants are drugs that help expel mucus from the lungs and respiratory passages. They help to thin mucous secretions, enhancing drainage from the sinuses. The most common is guaifenesin (contained in Robitussin and Mucinex, for example). Over-the-counter (OTC) liquid cough medications or prescription tablets can also combine decongestants and cough suppressants to reduce symptoms as well as to eliminate the need for the use of many medications. Read label ingredients to find the right combination of ingredients or ask the pharmacist for help.

  • Relieve pain:

Pain medication such as ibuprofen (Motrin and Advil are examples), aspirin, and naproxen (Aleve) can reduce pain and inflammation. These medications help to open the airways by reducing swelling. Acetaminophen/Paracetamol (Tylenol) can be used for pain and fever but does not help with the inflammation.

Outlook on Sinusitis

Sinusitis or sinus infections usually clear up if treated early and appropriately. Aside from those who develop complications, the outlook for acute bacterial sinusitis is good. People may develop chronic sinusitis or have recurrent attacks of acute sinusitis if they have allergic or structural causes for their sinusitis.


"Sinusitis: Causes, Symptoms, Tests, and Treatment." WebMD - Better information. Better health. Web. 06 Nov. 2009. <>.


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