Sinusitis affects about 16 percent of the adult population in the United States, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. The nasal cavity consists of support structures, olfactory mucosa, the vestibule, respiratory mucosa, nasal conchae and paranasal sinuses. When one of the nasal passages or one of the four sinus groups--maxillary, sphenoid, ethmoid or frontal--becomes inflamed, a sinus infection can develop.
The septum is the soft membrane that divides the nasal cavity. If the septum is abnormally shaped or is situated more toward one side rather than in the center of the nose, the maxillary sinuses can become blocked. An abnormal septum also can make it difficult to inhale fully and normally. The condition is generally caused by an injury to the nose or face. In extreme cases, septoplasty surgery might be required.
Abnormally large turbinates can also cause nasal blockages. The nose has superior, middle and inferior turbinates, which are located from the top to the bottom of the nose. Turbinate blockages can obstruct air passage to the maxillary sinuses, largest of the paranasal sinuses, located below the eye sockets, behind the cheekbones and in the upper jaw area. When this happens, the sinuses can become infected and create a mucus drainage problem.
More acute maxillary sinus infections can cause increased pressure in your nose, eyes and jaws. A headache might develop and remain until the condition is treated. You also might experience post-nasal drip, which can create a constant, prolonged, deep cough similar to what is experienced with bronchitis. In some cases you might have periodic episodes of double vision.
Acute sinusitis will cause yellow or green pus to discharge from your nose. You can develop a toothache, fever and chills as well. In this case, the infection has typically expanded and spread to other parts of your body. Left untreated, an infection of the maxillary sinuses can cause the top of your face, particularly around the eye area, to swell. Swelling in the eye area can advance rapidly, and within minutes or hours it can cause blindness. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, consult your physician immediately.
Staphylococci, hemophillus, streptococci and pneumococci bacteria also can infect the maxillary sinuses. If you have an infection in your gums or in another part of your nose that is not properly treated, the infection could worsen or spread to the maxillary sinuses. In rare cases, a tooth extraction can cause the sinuses to become infected or strengthen an existing infection. Regular dental checkups can spot such a problem before it becomes acute. To relieve symptoms associated with a maxillary sinus infection, antibiotics, drinking hot water or hot tea, taking steamy showers and inhaling a hot pot of steamy water can help.