What are your Sinuses?
Everyone has sinuses or paranasal sinus cavities.
Sinuses are four paired air-filled cavities
positioned in strategic positions around your nose, eyes and check
areas and form a fundamental part of the skull. They are classified
according to the bone in which they are found.
The four sinus cavities are:
- Maxillary Sinus Cavities –
are found under the eyes and above the upper teeth. The maxillary
sinus cavities are the largest of the four sinuses. Toothache and
pressure around the cheek area is a common symptom of a maxillary
- Sphenoid Sinus Cavities –
are located posterior (behind) to the eye ball. Any infection in
this area can cause pain around the temples and back of the eye
- Ethmoid Sinus Cavities –
are located in-between the eyes. An infection in these sinus
cavities can cause pain in-between the eyes. This pain can extend
to the forehead and cause headaches.
- Frontal Sinus Cavities – are found above the eye and eye bone. Headaches or pains in the forehead may occur if this area becomes infected.
Why do we have Sinus Cavities?
Sinus cavities are very important for the following reasons:
- They help reduce the weight of the skull.
- They help to increase the air moisture and humidify the air entering through the nostrils.
- They provide a large surface area for
foreign particles to attach to the mucus linings thereby
preventing these from fully entering the body and causing further
- Sinus cavities help add to voice resonance and quality and are the reason for our distinct vocal characteristics.
- These air pockets can serve as “mini
airbags” providing a cushioning during any facial trauma and help
protect the delicate brain tissue.
- They provide insulation to prevent delicate organs such as the eyes from overheating.
What is mucus and how is mucus produced?
The membranes lining the nose and sinus
cavities contain minute hair-like cells called cilia. Imagine millions
of tiny sweeping brushes, brushing a large area free of dust and debris;
this is what the cilia do.
In addition to the above function, cilia also secrete a fluid
like substance known as mucus.
This means that the floor of our sinus cavities will not only be
brushed clean of foreign and unwanted material but will also be washed
clean by mucus.
Mucus is a clear, slimy liquid substance found
in most of the body’s tubes e.g. the lungs, digestive system and
reproductive system and not only in the nasal passages. The body
produces around 2 quarts of mucus daily, without you being consciously
aware of this. It is this liquid that is responsible for holding onto
any foreign particles entering the nasal passages and safely removing
or preventing them from entering important organs.
When something irritates the mucus membrane
linings, more of this clear liquid, sticky (mucus) is produced in a
response to the irritation. It is this increased mucus production which
puts strain on our tiny cilia brushes making them unable to remove all
the mucus. This mucus will then become stagnant and dry out resulting
in congestion and sinus pressure.
Movement of Mucus
When foreign particles come into contact with
the mucus membranes, these membranes secrete more mucus in a bid to wash
away the unwanted particles. As the irritation progresses, the mucus
membranes become inflamed, blocking off any possible exit (ostia)
pathways for the mucus to drain.
This process results in the impairment of the cilia’s
sweeping function and causes mucus to dry out and become sticky and thick.
It is this thick, sticky mucus that promotes sinusitis, nasal blockages, sinus pressure and congestion.
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