Sinus pressure and pain have a variety of causes, but the most frequent causes are known together as sinusitis. This is an inflammation of the nasal passages as a result of a fungal, viral, or bacterial infection. Pressure is one of the more noticeable symptoms of sinusitis, along with headache and excess mucus. It can feel like a pain behind the eyes or a tight sensation in the face and ears. Rarely, it can also take the form of jaw pain. Although the pressure can be painful, it is usually easy to find relief.
Apart from sinusitis, allergic reactions can also cause irritation in the sinuses, leading to swelling and sinus pressure. Some allergens which cause irritation in the sinuses are pollen, pet dander, and dust mites, among others. Irritation often leads to swelling, and when swelling occurs, the narrow passages that normally allow air and mucus to travel between the sinuses become blocked. These conditions, if not caused directly by infection, can lead to it, further worsening the condition.
Many times, sinus pressure can spring from symptoms of the common cold. The cold is a viral infection, but when the usual sinus irritation lasts more than several days, this usually indicates that a bacterial infection is also present. In this type of infection, pus is produced by the nasal membranes as a response to it, causing even more discomfort and pain.
Ordinarily, the sinuses serve the purpose of trapping impurities and microorganisms that are present in the air we breathe. All sinuses have a narrow opening called an ostium, about the width of a pencil lead, which allows air and mucus to flow freely throughout the system. Mucus production is normal at a certain rate as an immune defense. When the ostium becomes blocked, the mucus cannot exit into the throat as usual, and this causes a pressure buildup which we perceive as sinus pressure.
Relief from sinus pressure usually comes in the form of medication, and a few simple practices to follow until the symptoms disappear. Nasal decongestants and pain relievers will temporarily relieve pressure and may indirectly make it easier for the body to fight infection in the sinuses. If you have a cold, it can be beneficial to use a room humidifier at night, as well as keeping your head elevated while you sleep. If you experience chronic sinus pressure and other symptoms for more than several weeks at a time, this may indicate another underlying condition, and in any case the care of a physician is recommended.