Sinuses are air passageways in various parts of the head. They are lined with mucus and a hairlike substance called cilia. When air is inhaled, it is filtered by the mucus in the nasal passages. Cilia help to move mucus out of the nasal passages, carrying any dust, dirt, pollen or bacteria with it. Mucus that builds up in these passageways can cause blockages to develop. These blockages can result in a number of negative conditions.
When sinuses become blocked, the amount of air that is able to be breathed in is limited. Therefore, the body expends extra energy to breathe, which can cause fatigue. If both nasal passages are significantly clogged, breathing through the mouth may be required to maintain a sufficient air supply. Sleeping may be restless and unsatisfying due to the difficulty to breathe.
In order for air to flow freely through the sinuses and be filtered properly, mucus must be relatively thin. Thicker mucus is harder to be released and can lead to blockage. Mucus thickens when it is deprived of air and moisture. Thick, darkened mucus that is released through the nose increases the chances of a sinus blockage.
Sinus chambers are located under the eyes, behind the nose, and in the forehead and cheeks. When blockages occur in any of these areas, they become prone to bacteria. When bacteria are present, inflammation and swelling result, causing head pressure or facial pain. Headaches typically occur in the forehead or back of the head. The area around the eyes and cheeks may become sensitive to touch.
Blocked sinus passages can misdirect the mucus to be discharged. As a result, when the head is in the reclining position, thickened mucus can seep to the back of the throat and begin to drip. This post-nasal drip irritates the throat, causing it to become dry, reddened and sore.
Unlike the common cold, blocked sinuses can last for weeks to months. Symptoms can be treated with both prescription and nonprescription medications as well as home remedies. However, if the blocked sinus becomes infected, treatment will require more than a few days. Immediate relief may be provided for symptoms but is usually temporary. The focus of the treatment is to unblock the sinus passage causing the symptoms; this can require a continued effort over time.