What are the sinuses?
The sinuses are air filled spaces in the face. There are four sinuses on each side: the maxillary sinus under the eyes, the ethmoid sinuses between the eyes, the frontal sinuses under the forehead and the sphenoid sinus which sits basically in the centre of your head. The sinuses connect to each other and to the nasal cavity by little holes called ostia. The true role of the sinuses is not really known, but they are involved in modifying the air as it moves from the front of the nose to the back.
What is sinusitis?
Sinusitis is infection of the sinuses and can be either a short-term infection, or a longer term problem and can be caused by viruses, bacteria or fungi. When the sinuses get infected they often produce a variety of symptoms:
- A feeling of facial congestion
- Discharge out the front of the nose or down the back of the throat
- Nasal obstruction
- A bad taste in the mouth
- Loss of smell
Treatment of the sinuses depends on the cause, but may include antibiotics, nasal douche, nasal steroid sprays, and possibly short-term use of nasal decongestants or oral steroids. The last two should only be used for very short periods and usually after discussion with your ENT surgeon.
What about nasal polyps?
Polyps are small fluid filled swollen areas of tissue that are usually due to element of allergy, and can fill the sinuses and nasal cavity causing nasal obstruction and loss of sense of smell.
Polyps are usually treated by a combination of medical treatment in order to shrink the polyps, and surgery if the medical treatment is not sufficient.
Is sinus surgery safe?
Although the risks of any surgery can never be reduced to zero, the risks of sinus surgery are reduced significantly by the use of good quality CT scans to allow the surgeon to map out the surgery. Each patient’s road map is different, which is why CT scans will be required for any sinus surgery.
What is involved in sinus surgery?
Essentially, sinus surgery aims to improve the drainage of the sinuses and remove any infective debris or polyps. This is done with telescopes through the nostrils and specialised instruments designed purely for use in the sinuses. At the end of the procedure the nose may be packed with dissolvable material that breaks down with the nasal douche that you will be doing after the operation.