Ep. 16: Everything (most things) You Need to Know about Sinus Cavities
I believe everyone has heard about facial sinus cavities and that a sinus infection can happen.
However, in order to better understand how to treat these problems, it is important to learn more about sinus cavities. Who has them? Where are they located? What do they do?
First, what are facial sinus cavities?
Our skull bone is thick and heavy because it protects our delicate brain and eyeballs.
Sinus cavities, hollow, air-filled areas inside some of our skull and facial bones, are lined by soft pink tissue called mucosa, which produces mucus. Be sure to check out my post which shares the important role that mucus has in our health.
There are 4 different sets of sinus cavities, but they are connected to each other by common drainage pathways.
Each sinus can vary in size based on age but also upon location. Some of them are just one big cavity, and some have little dividing bones to make them a group of smaller sinus cavities.
Where are the different sinus cavities located?
The sinuses enter the facial bones through drainage sites inside of the nose. I have previously detailed the function of the nose which also highlights how the sinuses related to the rest of the nasal anatomy.
Although many people simply say that they have a sinus infection or pressure in their sinuses, the location of the sinus can help us to know which sinus is involved. The four main sinuses are :
- Maxillary sinus: the largest sinus located in the cheekbone area
- Ethmoid sinuses: actually a cluster of small sinuses (6-12) located between the eye and the nose
- Frontal sinus: located in the low-center part of the forehead
- Sphenoid sinus: located in the bone straight back behind the nose, like in the center of the head!
Most of us have a sinus or group of sinuses on each side of our faces; however, some people are missing some and others grow extra ones.
Why do we have sinus cavities?
The short answer is: no one knows! There are several theories, and I like all of them.
- Help humidify the air we breathe
- Help filter the air we breathe
- Improve the quality of our voices
- Enhance our sense of smell
- Simply make our heads lighter! (actually my favorite!)
When do sinus cavities develop?
This is such an important question because at least once a week, someone tells me that babies do not have sinus cavities yet. Ummm, nope.
Well to be fair, that statement is partially correct because the sinus cavities do not develop all at the same time.
The maxillary and ethmoid sinuses develop during the third month of pregnancy. That’s right, infants are born with sinus cavities! And…those sinuses CAN get infected. Sinus infections in infants, like so many other infant infections, can be a true emergency because the bone between the nose, eyes, and brain is thin. Infections can easily pass between locations in infants. So keep flushing that mucus out of your baby’s nose!
The sphenoid sinus develops from the back of the ethmoid sinus around four years of age.
The last sinus to develop is the frontal sinus which starts for form around age 7 but is not fully mature until mid-teen years.
What diseases can happen in the sinus cavities?
Obviously, the biggie is an infection! When the nose becomes inflamed and swollen due to the common cold or allergies, the sinus drainage pathways can become blocked. Mucus gets trapped in the sinuses, and infections occur.
An entire post can be dedicated to sinus infections, but a brief overview is that there are 3 basic types:
- Acute: (short-term) Symptoms last less than 12 weeks and get better with the appropriate treatment.
- Chronic: (long-term) Symptoms last longer than 12 weeks.
- Recurrent: This means the infection comes back repeatedly. Typically, 3 or more episodes of acute sinusitis in a year.
Besides the expected viral and bacterial sinus infections, there may also be fungal infections, nasal polyps, and tumors (both benign and malignant) that need to be evaluated.
This is a great place to end my overview. Separate podcast episodes are dedicated to understanding how to diagnose sinusitis, treating sinusitis and understanding complications of sinusitis.
As always, much love for supporting my work. I will be adding many more posts to highlight parenting and healthcare tips, so be sure to consider subscribing to my podcast or to my blog to avoid missing a post!
My teen had a sinus infection and it was painful. This is good info to know about.
I am glad your child recovered well. If it comes back, I hope the other parts of my podcast dealing with diagnosis and treatment might be helpful.
Your sinuses are air-filled cavities within your skull; sudden pressure changes can cause air to get trapped in them, which can lead to sinus pressure, pain, and congestion. This commonly happens during air travel, so it’s best to avoid flying when you have nasal and sinus congestion due to a cold or allergy.
Finding ways to reduce the nasal inflammation with nasal saline, allergy meds or temporary use of decongestants might be something a physician can recommend to allow traveling while sick.
Interesting. I didn’t know about these at all. I will have to keep this in mind for sure.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and feel free to share with others who may need to know this information.
This is really great to know, can’t believe I raised 2 children and didn’t know more about sinus cavities. Thank you for sharing this great content.
Luckily most kids and adults will never know the struggle of dealing with sinus infections.
My sister had really bad cavities and she would hare them, I have never had them but this is good to know.
I hope your sister is better now. If not, feel free to share my posts with her since I am doing a full series on sinus infections.
Wow!Such an informative read.Will be sharing this with my family for sure.
I appreciate you sharing this to help others learn.
My brother has sinus issues and I think this post helps me to understand his symptoms better. It’s good to let him know this information.
That’s great to hear. Feel free to share with your brother to help him understand treatment options.
I had a nephew who had a similar issue when he was a baby. I wish I knew all of this back then. Thanks for the information.
Hopefully, you can share this information with others who might need it.
Very informative and educational. It is helpful to understand this more now that cold season is upon us. Thank you for sharing.
Cold and flu season is a common time for sinus infections to become worse.
I am so thankful that I did not get my mom’s gene of bad sinus infections. She gets them ALL THE TIME. I have only ever had just a handful in my life. I don’t have bad allergies either. I guess I hit the jackpot there.
Oh my. You might want to help your mom see a physician to figure out the underlying problem that can be treated to prevent the infections.
Hopefully I don’t have too many problems with my sinus cavities, but I know people who face them quite often. I must admit that I didn’t know most of the things you included in this article. I’m going to share it with some of my friends! 🙂
Most people will never have sinus problems, but those that do can benefit from this information. Thanks for sharing.
I’ve had so many sinus issues throughout my life it’s not even funny. At one point last year, I kept getting sinus infections to the point where I went to see an allergist. I was prescribed nasal sprays (something I’d never tried) and a new allergy medicine.. This post helps me understand what was going on with me at the time.
Allergies are a common reason for recurrent sinus infections. It is good that you are being managed by an allergist to prevent the problem.
I am very thankful to have met a good friend of mine, to listen to her about what she does for a living. She sells a product that is a multi-use tool. It is an air purifier, vacuum, leaf blower, and much more. We mostly use it for the air purification. Which is really something special for my family. Both my husband and daughter have horrible sinus allergies, especially in the autumn and fall when the air is cool and changing. Ever since we bought this thing, it has changed our lives. Our sinus issues are practically gone.
Yes there are many ways to reduce allergies and sinus infections by changing what stays in our noses. This product sounds fabulous but if symptoms come back when you are not in your home, you can also use saline nasal washes.
I have had so many sinus infections. I HATE it as they are so painful.
Oh no! I hope you find the underlying reason why they recur and find a way to prevent them.
I didn’t know there are this kinds of sinuses. Glad I learned something new by reading your article. I am sure many would be happy to learn such information.
Yes, it is a blessing that many people never suffer from allergies and sinus infections.
This great post, I learned lot about sinus cavities, it is serious problem in kids. luckily my kids didn’t have it.
These can be hard to diagnose in kids because they may not express themselves the way we want them to.
I never knew so much details about sinus cavities but it’s great to know more, and also to know what could happen and how to recognize that something is happening!
There is a lot about sinuses that most people do not know. Hope this helps improve that.
This is such an informational blog for Sinus Cavities. I was not much aware of it before. Thanks for sharing it.
Understanding what sinuses are can be helpful to understand them when they become sick.
Thank you for this! I have learned a lot from the post. I will be more aware of the sinus problems.
Sinus problems are very common and people have a lot of incorrect information about them that I hope this clears up.
Never heard about the Sinus Cavities. This is very informative post and everyone needs to share with post. We need to aware of the Sinus problems. Thanks Dr B for sharing this post.
Sinus infections are common in kids and adults. It is great that you and your family do not suffer from them!
Oh, first time I have heard of this. I will let my husband read this. My daughter is always having colds and this might be causing her cavities. 🙁
Kids do tend to get lots of colds so finding ways to reduce them and prevent complications like sinus infections is important.
Wow this was informative. I had no idea we had sinus cavities and why they are important for our bodies.
Yes, our many sinus cavities are usually boring and uneventful so it is easy to not think about them. But when they get sick, it is good to understand why and how to treat them.