Sinus congestion is known by different names like rhinitis, nasal congestion, stuffy nose, etc. Sinuses are small, air-filled cavities found in the frontal part of the skull. They are located in the areas near the forehead, eyes, cheeks, nose, and ears. They play a major role in trapping harmful bacteria, virus, and other unwanted substances to stop them from entering your body. Thus, they protect you from various forms of infection. An inflammation in the lining of the sinuses is known as sinus congestion. It may either be acute or chronic. An acute congestion lasts for a week or so, whereas a chronic congestion may persist for 8 weeks or more. In some chronic cases, the duration of congestion could be short, but they tend to recur.
The sinus lining may get inflamed when its cells get irritated and damaged by some foreign elements. Exposure to various types of allergens like pollen, dust, mold, pet dander, etc., causes irritation in the sinuses and triggers allergic reaction. Similarly, smoke, chemicals, fumes, scents, perfumes, etc., may act as irritants for the sinus lining. If harmful viruses, bacteria, and fungi attack the cells of nasal cavity, then swelling may occur due to the infection. Upper respiratory infection like common cold, sore throat and tonsillitis, and infection in the lower respiratory tract, like pneumonia, may cause chronic nasal congestion. Any structural abnormality in the nasal passage may also be responsible for this condition that may last for a long time. Growth of polyps and tumors may also cause obstruction in sinuses, and thereby lead to congestion.
There is no difference between the symptoms of chronic and acute sinus congestion. Any kind of inflammation in the sinus cavity exerts pressure on its surroundings. As a result, pain due to the pressure may be felt in the areas around the eyes, nose, upper jaw, and ears. One may often get a sinus headache which may get extended to the back of the neck. When the sinus lining gets irritated, it starts producing more amount of mucus. This excess amount of mucus gets accumulated in the nasal passage and causes nasal congestion. This leads to a stuffy nose with a continuous clear and thin discharge from the nose.
Other common symptoms include:
- Postnasal drip, where the thick mucus from nasal passage is secreted at the back part of the throat
- Sore throat triggered by the mucus drip
- Hoarse voice
- Breathing difficulty
- Persistent cough
- Frequent sneezing
- Constant itchiness in eyes and throat
- Dull and heavy feeling in the head
- Loss of taste and smell because of congestion inside the nose
- Bad breath
- Low-grade fever
- Sense of fullness in ears
- Swollen eyes
Treatment of this condition mainly aims at reducing the symptoms associated with it. Saline nasal sprays are highly effective for clearing up the nasal passage. They wash off the mucus and provide a temporary relief from the congested feeling. When there is too much of mucus buildup inside the nasal cavity, then oral decongestants are used to treat the condition. It reduces inflammation inside the sinus cavity by restricting the flow of blood to the area, and thus facilitates easier sinus drainage.
Excessive inflammation caused due to obstruction, like nasal polyps, is treated with corticosteroids. It is available in the form of oral medicines, injections, and nasal sprays. Your doctor will recommend which one is the most suitable for you. However, it should not be used for a long time. Antibiotics are prescribed for chronic sinus infection caused by bacteria. Pain relieving medicines are administered for controlling sinus headache. A nasal polyp or tumor need to be removed by surgical means.
The intensity of symptoms tend to be at its worst in fall and spring. During these seasons, you may try simple remedies like steam inhalation and nasal irrigation to prevent any further aggravation of the symptoms.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.