What Causes Sinus Problems?

April 15, 2017 by Dr. Fred Lindsay, DO

Your sinus problems can often times be compared to a traffic jam.  Imagine the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel operating smoothly.  Both lanes are open and cars are moving and able to get from one side of the tunnel to the other.  Now image if one lane is closed for repairs.  What happens to the traffic?  Yes, it slows down.

This is what happens with a chronic sinus infection.  An infection that lasts approx. four weeks in know as acute sinusitis.  If the infection continues after treatment or if the sinus problems last longer than 12 weeks, you would generally have what is know as chronic sinusitis.

Sinuses are hollow spaces located under the eyes and lower forehead and around the nose.  What happens with a chronic sinus infection is very similar to the traffic analogy above.  Imagine the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel with one lane closed during peak times.

Sinus Problems in Virginia

The flow is slowed and traveling from one side of the bridge to the other will take longer.  When your sinuses are healthy air can easily flow in and out while mucus can drain easily.

Like the congested tunnel, your sinus passage ways are irritated and swollen preventing good flow and drainage.

While an ENT - Allergy specialist​ is the best way to pinpoint your sinus problems, there are a few common causes that may be the root of  your sinus problems.

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Possible Causes Of Your Sinus Problems

  • Nasal Polyps
  • Enlarged Turbinates
  • Perforated or Deviated Septum
  • Allergic Reactions
Nasal Polyps

Polyps are small growths of tissue that form on the inside of the nasal passages and block them.  Nasal polyps are rarely cancerous.  Symptoms include difficulty breathing, loss of taste, facial pain, and sleep apnea.  Larger polyps may need to be removed by surgery if medications and steroids aren't working.  

​Enlarged Turbinates

Turbinates are thin layers of bone that are covered in mucus and attach to the tissue inside of your nose.  While generally small, they can cause huge problems.  Their function is to assist in filtering the air that you breath.  An allergy flare up will make them enlarge, become uncomfortable, and prevent the sinuses from draining.  In most instances, medication will help, but surgery may be necessary.

Perforated or Deviated Septum

The septum is a part of your nose that is comprised of both bone and cartilage.  It separates your nostrils into two areas.  If the septum becomes crooked or torn airflow is disrupted causing a multitude of problems.  Symptoms of a torn or deviated septum include headaches, congestion, facial pain, and infections.

​Allergic Reactions

While the most obvious cause of sinus problems is an allergic reaction. Things such as pollen, mold, pet dander, and ragweed are just a few allergens that could be your problem.  You options for treatment include allergy skin testing, medication, immunotherapy, or balloon sinusplasty.

12 %
Of All Americans

If you are suffering, you are definitely not alone.  Approximately 29 million people or 12% of all Americans have been diagnosed with some type of chronic sinus problems or sinusitis. 

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About The Author
Dr. Fred W. Lindsay DO

Dr. Fred Lindsay, DO

Dr. Fred Lindsay, DO is an otolaryngologist with Hampton Roads ENT - Allergy in Newport News, VA.  

While not working he enjoys sending time with his wife and 4 children.  His many hobbies include running, swimming, cycling, skiing, and motorcycle riding.