My Sinuses Are Killing Me

I often hear the complaint, “My sinuses are killing me” or, “I can’t breathe at all, my sinuses are acting up.” What’s happening with your sinuses when you feel this discomfort? Also, how can you find relief for your chronic sinus problems?

Posted on | Jonathan E. Aviv, MD, FACS | Comments ()

I often hear the complaint, “My sinuses are killing me” or, “I can’t breathe at all, my sinuses are acting up.” What’s happening with your sinuses when you feel this discomfort? Also, how can you find relief for your chronic sinus problems?   


The sinuses – also known as the paranasal sinuses – are air-filled spaces located mainly on your face, and the right and left sides of the head; they are located just outside the nasal passages and drain into the nose. Sinuses act to lighten the head and have respiratory clearing functions as well.

A common misconception about sinus problems is that breathing is more difficult when the sinuses are swollen; this is not always the case. Even if one has trouble breathing through the nose, it doesn’t necessarily mean the sinuses are blocked. The sinuses go by the following names: maxillary (cheek), ethmoid (between the eyes), frontal (forehead) and sphenoid (behind the eyes, in the middle of the head). 


When I see a patient with sinus problems in my office, I listen for the classic symptoms of sinus inflammation: facial pain, facial pressure, and thick yellow or green mucus from the nose. I can identify thick yellow/green mucus draining from the sinuses into the nose by examining the inside of the nose with either a flashlight or with a thin telescope (nasal endoscopy). Sometimes, however, the diagnosis of a sinus infection needs to be done through a CT scan or MRI imaging.


When one is experiencing the start of sinus pain or pressure (before infection occurs), I recommend a natural treatment involving facial steam or salt water. My next step in treating infected sinuses is prescribing a combination of antibiotics, topical nasal steroids, decongestants, and antihistamines; in addition to the natural treatment of facial steam or saltwater treatments. 


For those of you who suffer from persistent or recurrent sinus pain, pressure, or infection, long term solutions may be found in the results of an allergy investigation (allergy testing).  


The take-home message here is: When you have persistent facial pain and pressure, with or without yellow/green stuff coming out of your nose, see an ear nose and throat doctor.


For more information please visit www.entandallergy.com/services/allergy.php

Blog written by Jonathan E. Aviv, MD, FACS
Author of over 60 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals and Flexible Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing with Sensory...