Our sinuses are the hollow spaces in the bones around the nose and connect with the nose through small, hollow channels. When these channels are open, the sinuses stay healthy; air can pass from the nose to the sinuses and mucus can drain from the sinuses into the nose. Inflammation of the nasal passages alone is called rhinitis. Inflammation of the nasal lining and sinuses is referred to as rhinosinusitis.
Rhinosinusitis is a common condition which generally occurs when viruses or bacteria infect the sinuses and begin to multiply – this often happens during a cold. The body’s reaction to the infection causes the sinus lining to swell, blocking the channels that drain the sinuses. This causes mucus and pus to build up in the sinus cavities.
This build-up and the associated symptoms can, at times, become more severe. Allergies and other medical conditions can worsen the course of infection, though the acute infection is usually caused by a virus or bacteria. An acute infection lasts usually days but can last for up to four weeks.
Chronic rhinosinusitis sees symptoms last for more than 12 weeks and is usually caused by prolonged inflammation, rather than a persistent infection. Chronic rhinosinusitis can present with or without polyps and may be associated with other medical conditions.
Surgery for sinusitis is considered when the symptoms cannot be controlled by medication or other treatments. The purpose of sinus surgery is to widen the natural drainage pathways between the sinuses and the nose. Underlying medical conditions, if any, also need to be managed to get the best result of the surgery.