How Sinus Infections Can Mess With Your Eyes
Published Sept 23, 2020
Your sinuses affect more than just your nose. Sinuses are a series of interconnected hollow cavities found in the skull. They’re located behind your nose, in your cheekbones, the low center of your forehead, and between your eyes. Many experts still wonder why we have sinuses. However, this part of our body apparently humidifies the air we breathe in and improves our voice quality. Their primary function is to produce mucus, which moisturizes the inside of our noses. This mucus serves as a protective layer that protects the nose from external pollutants like dust, dirt, and nasty microorganisms.
But how do my sinuses affect my eyes?
Due to their position in the skull, our sinuses have a direct effect on our eyes. When you feel pressure or pain behind your eyes, this problem may not be one with them but with your sinuses. Healthy sinuses are full of air, but mucus could build-up when they become infected, causing stuffiness and discomfort.
The primary symptom that this is a sinus problem and not an eye one is the feeling of pressure behind your eyes. When you have an eye problem, it can lead to eye pain and impaired vision. However, eye problems rarely cause pressure, not even in glaucoma, which comes from pressure build-up within the eyes.
What causes my sinuses to be infected?
Infection in the sinuses, or sinusitis, happens when harmful bacteria or viruses make their way into the sinuses. These cause your sinuses to become inflamed, which consequently blocks mucus from draining, causing an unnecessary build-up in your sinuses. With a sinus infection, you’ll feel stuffiness and pressure in the upper parts of your face, including behind your eyes. Most sinus infections are viral in nature, so they’ll resolve themselves in a week or two without any treatment.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the following are common symptoms of a sinus infection:
- Runny nose
- Stuffy nose
- Facial pain or pressure
- Mucus dripping down the throat (post-nasal drip)
- Sore throat
- Bad breath
Several risk factors also contribute to higher chances of getting sinus infections:
- Common cold
- Allergic conditions like hay fever
- Smoking cigarettes and exposure to secondhand smoke
- A weakened immune system
- Structural problems within the sinuses
What are the common types of sinus infections?
Acute sinusitis has the shortest duration among these. A viral infection brought on by the common cold can cause this and typically lasts up to two weeks. Seasonal allergies like hay fever may also cause acute sinusitis.
Subacute sinusitis can cause symptoms to last for up to three months. The leading causes are bacterial infections and seasonal allergies.
Chronic sinusitis symptoms persist for more than three months. The factors behind this type are sinus structure and persistent allergies.
These types of sinusitis may lead to orbital complications (relating to the orbit or eye cavity) 41% of the time. The five primary groups of orbital complications are:
Preseptal cellulitis is the infection of the tissues surrounding your eyes. This condition leads to redness and swelling of the eyelid and other surrounding skin.
Orbital cellulitis is the inflammation of eye tissues behind the orbital septum. It is a serious infection to the muscle and fat around the orbit.
Subperiosteal abscess is a condition that usually presents itself as a collection of pus in between the periorbital and papyracea, which results from the migration of infection like sinusitis.
Orbital abscess is a severe infection to the orbit. More severe cases can lead to vision loss and even death.
Cavernous Sinus Thrombosis
Cavernous sinus thrombosis is a blood clot in the cavernous sinuses. If left untreated, it can be life-threatening. Its main symptoms include a sharp headache, bulging eyeballs, and eye pain that’s often severe.
Treatment of Sinus Infections
To relieve yourself of the eye pain, you must treat the underlying condition in the sinus infection. The following are well-known and effective remedies for sinus infections:
- Nasal decongestant sprays
- Topical nasal corticosteroids
- Nasal saline washes
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