What Causes Sinus Disease and Sinus Problems?

Sinus problems and sinus disease are commonly on the minds of my patients these days. No wonder! Most metropolitan areas have lots of smog and air pollution which adds to symptoms when a person also has allergies too.

Today we know that most sinus diseases are caused when the cilia – the very tiny “hairs” in the nose and chest – stop beating. These wonderful machines act like oars, moving 16 strokes each second to propel bacteria, dirt, and cancer causing poisons out of the nose and chest, before they have a chance to enter the body. Many cancers form where there are few cilia, emphasizing their importance. The treatment of choice for sinus disease is to have the body return the cilia to their normal function, beating 16 times per second. Know what the BEST treatment is for early morning sneezing? If you start sneezing on awakening, it is because the nose is trying to get rid of the particles that accumulated there at night. If the nasal cilia are working properly, they beat at 16 beats a second and get rid of these particles and then you don’t need the sneezing. One treatment of sinus disease is breakfast in bed! By drinking hot tea or coffee before you get out of bed, the body gets warmed up, the cilia speed up and the sneezing or hacking is avoided. Irrigating the nasal and sinus passages with a warm saline solution using the sinus irrigator is also very helpful.

In the nose and chest are millions of tiny “oars” or cilia. They act in coordination to move out the dust and bacteria from the nose to the back of the throat where it can be swallowed and disposed of in the stomach. In the chest, the cilia beat to move the germs and dust out of the chest, up the windpipe to the throat where it is swallowed. When this system works you don’t get sinus disease. When the system fails in the chest you get a cough, the cough takes over to get rid of the dirt and germs in the bronchial passages. Protection from infection is achieved by the presence of lysozymes, immunoglobulins and phagocytes in the mucus solution. Movement of the bacteria by mucus flow reduces opportunity for penetration of the cell. Dilution of bacterial products makes them less toxic. Mast cells and globulins are carried in the mucous layer. If the cilia don’t move the blanket, then the cells and defense can’t be delivered where they are needed.

Thus, the mucociliary defense system consists of cells that transport mucous and cells that secrete mucous. Both are essential to health.

Sinus cilia beat toward the natural sinus opening. Nasal cilia beat backward . Nasal mucus propels into the nasopharynx and is swallowed for disposal into the stomach. In the child this course directs the mucus with its bacteria, debris and foreign matter over the adenoids where lymphocytic defenses can act. The deep crypts and rugae of the adenoids create a larger surface area for greater effect in order to defend the body. With a virus infection, the cilia are slowed down by the virus chemicals. This allows bacteria that normally would be swept away by the cilia to enter the body. Therefore, anything you can do to encourage good cilia movement is helpful. Hot chicken soup works! Hot tea is good. Warm compresses appliaed to the sinus/nasal area also helps. Enhanced nasal saline moisturizers such as Breath-Ease XL that we use with patients have been shown to aid the ciliary action better than regular saline. Not all saline powders or solutions are the same! The best solution to use is not simply isotonic saline but an enhanced nasal/sinus moisturizing formula that is more complex, one that is more gentle than pure saline, and has other ingredients to make it an improved nasal and sinus moisturizer. Always avoid saline moisturizers and sprays containing preservatives or other additives which may make things worse! It has an advantage over saline in that there are no preservatives such as benzalkonium and the mixture is buffered to avoid any burning sensation..

When you feel a sinus infection coming on, getting rest, eating hot soup, and drinking tea are helpful. Hot compresses applied to the sinus areas above the eyes for the frontal sinuses, between the eyes for the ethmoid sinuses, and below the eyes for the maxillary sinuses are an added benefit too. Of course irrigating the sinuses with the sinus irrigator will produce good results when the other previously mentioned techniques are unable to resolve matters on their own*.

The pulsatile effects of nasal/sinus irrigation can be used to restore nasal cilia, remove nasal pus, and thin the secretions. With a proper pulsatile irrigation device such as the sinus irrigator, the irrigation pressure is adjusted to just the right value of 5 PSI – the water stream is about an inch high. The saline, or better yet, an enhanced moisturizing solution made from the Breath-Ease XL saline powder that we recommend, goes in one side of the nose and drains out the other side. This is a natural way of healing the sinus condition. Even children as young as 5 years find this to be a pleasant treatment.

Some people get symptoms after exposure to city smog or dust at work. It is advisable for them to use the sinus irrigator much like washing the hands to remove dirt. By irrigating in this manner, the nose doesn’t have to do the work. People who work in construction often receive large exposures to dirt and dust and should irrigate their sinuses an a regular basis. It especially useful for firefighters to use the sinus irrigator after fighting a fire. These precautions will decrease the chances of sinus disease remarkably.

Cilia are generally activated by increasing temperature up to 40 C, so hot compresses over the sinus area are beneficial. However above 40 C cilia are inactivated and hence the deleterious effects of hot steam nasal inhalation. Long term dry steam inhalation, (sauna), is suspected of being harmful.

For people with serious sinus disease, pulsatile irrigation with the sinus irrigator has proven to be extremely useful*. For example, patients with Cystic Fibrosis have very poor ciliary action and so develop serious sinus disease. The pulsating action of the sinus irrigator can remove the pus and act like normal cilia. A good medication for nasal congestion is Sudafed Long Acting, 120 milligrams every 12 hours.

*Your results may vary.

Treat Your Sinus Problems