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What Are the Ethmoid Sinuses?

Beneath the upper facial bones of the human skull, are four air-filled cavities known as sinuses.
Headaches are a symptom of ethmoid sinusitis.
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  • Written By: Nat Robinson
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 07 July 2014
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Inside of the human skull are four sets of air-filled cavities known as sinuses. The sinuses help to prevent germs and bacteria from entering the nasal passage by secreting mucus. These hallow cavities are located at different locations between the facial bones. Ethmoid sinuses are the pair that are located between the eye sockets. The other three pairs consist of the sphenoid sinuses, located behind the eyes; the maxillary sinuses, found behind the bones of the cheeks; and the frontal sinuses, in the forehead.

The ethmoid sinuses are made up of many tiny interconnected bubbles. Each of these bubbles has an opening to drain mucus into the nasal cavity. If these sinuses become inflamed, they may begin to swell, which can prevent adequate draining. This inflammation can lead to a build up of mucus filled with germs and bacteria, which can cause an infection known as ethmoid sinusitis.

There are many possible factors that may contribute to the an infection of the ethmoid sinuses. The inhalation of smoke, pollen, pet dander, and dust can cause an allergic reaction which may cause the sinuses to become inflamed. An obstruction, such as a polyp, in the nasal passageway could hinder the ability of the sinuses to properly drain and cause an infection. The most common cause of ethmoid sinusitis, however, is the common cold. A cold can cause germs and bacteria to spread throughout the naval cavity, including the sinuses.

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Ethmoid sinusitis may be acute or chronic. If the condition is acute, it will typically last a week or two and will generally only occur a couple of times per year. Acute sinusitis may accompany a cold and may simply last as long as the cold does. Chronic sinusitis may occur frequently throughout a year and can last for months at a time. Individuals with allergies and asthma may most commonly endure chronic sinusitis.

Individuals with either of these conditions will generally experience the same symptoms, except in the case that the condition is chronic, the symptoms will last longer. Infection in the ethmoid sinuses may cause sinus pressure around the eyes. This can cause pain between and behind the eyes, and the eyelids may swell as a result of the tension. Some people may even lose the sense of smell. Other symptoms can include a headache, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and a fever.

Inflammation of the ethmoid sinuses can lead to serious health problems. An abscess can develop around the eyes as a result of the infection. A blood clot can also form in the face near the location of the sinuses. Ongoing problems with the sinuses that cause troubling symptoms such as eye and head pain, fever, and nasal congestion may indicate a chronic problem. In this event, a doctor should be consulted to prescribe adequate medications to treat the inflammation and alleviate the symptoms.

Over-the-counter medications may be helpful in individuals with minor symptoms. This may include using a decongestant to reduce stuffiness in the nose. More severe symptoms, such as a fever, may need a prescription medication, such as an antibiotic. Infection can occur in any of the four sets of sinuses. A patient presenting with sinusitis symptoms should be seen by a doctor for an accurate diagnosis of the type of sinusitis present and the best treatment method for the condition.

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