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Sinuses are cavities in the head around the nose (also called ‘paranasal sinuses’) that are air filled. When these cavities become inflamed or infected, this is referred to as sinus disease. Sinus disease is also referred to as sinus infection, sinusitis or rhinosinusitis, where the prefix ‘rhino’ refers to the nose and the sinuses close to the nose.

Sinus disease is very common and is understood to affect up to 30% of the population at any one time, with women marginally more prone to sinusitis than men. It is often a result of either a cold or an allergic reaction which irritates the mucus lining of the sinus and/or the nose and the sinus becomes infected (this can be either bacterial or viral) and then inflamed.

Common symptoms include:

  • a blocked nose
  • a runny nose
  • a headache
  • facial pain/discomfort
  • a toothache (upper teeth)
  • a general feeling of being unwell
  • loss of taste/smell

Often sinusitis will run its course without the need for medical treatment, and taking rest and keeping hydrated will help.

If the condition lasts longer than a week or two, the condition is then referred to as ‘chronic sinusitis’ and medical treatment may be required. Again chronic sinusitis is a common condition, affecting around 15% of Australians.

Apart from bacterial or viral infection, chronic sinusitis can result from anatomical issues, for example narrow sinus openings or nasal polyps (small, non cancerous growths inside the nose). Sometimes slight deformations in the sinuses or in the nose are normal, or can also be caused by injury/trauma.

In addition to the symptoms of sinusitis listed above, chronic sinusitis symptoms may also include:

  • a night time cough
  • fever
  • dizziness (especially when bending over)
  • halitosis (bad breath)

Sinusitis is generally diagnosis by examination, although a blood test and/or a CT scan may also be required.

Sinus disease is normally treated with antibiotics, along with nasal steroids, antihistamines and saline solutions if required. In some cases surgery may be the best approach. The treatment recommended will depend on exactly what form the condition takes, so an accurate diagnosis is important.

If you have been suffering any of the symptoms listed above for longer than 10 days and think you may have sinus disease, we would recommend you see your GP for a referral for a consultation with Dr Chang.