What Are Sinuses?
The sinuses are air-filled spaces found in the bones of the head and face. Sinuses start developing before you are born and some of them keep growing until you're about 20. There are four pairs of sinuses, or eight in all. They are located on either side of the nose in your cheeks, behind and between the eyes, in the forehead, and at the back of the nasal cavity.
Like the inside of the nose, the sinuses are lined with a moist, thin layer of tissue called a mucous membrane. The mucous membranes help moisten the air as you breathe it in. The mucous membrane also makes mucus, that sticky stuff in your nose you might call snot. The mucus traps dust and germs that are in the air we breathe. On the surface of the cells of the mucous membrane are microscopic hairs called cilia.
The cilia beat back and forth in waves to clear mucus from the sinuses through a narrow opening in the nose and then move the mucus toward the back of the nose to be swallowed. Gross, huh? If you have a cold or allergies, the membrane gets irritated and swollen and produces even more mucus.
There are four main pairs of sinus openings, sometimes called sinus cavities, in the face:
* Maxillary - in the cheekbones
* Ethmoid - between the eye sockets
* Frontal - in the forehead and above the eyebrows
* Sphenoid - deep in the head at the back of the nose
Each sinus has an opening into the nose for the free exchange of air and mucus, and each is joined with the nasal passages by a continuous mucous membrane lining. Therefore, anything that causes a swelling in the nose, an infection, an allergic reaction, or any other type of immune reaction also can affect the sinuses.
Air trapped within a blocked sinus, along with pus or other secretions, may cause pressure on the sinus wall. The result is the sometimes intense pain of a sinus attack. Similarly, when air is prevented from entering a paranasal sinus by a swollen membrane at the opening, a vacuum can be created that also causes pain.
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