Sphenoid Sinus Infection: Causes and Symptoms
Published April 14th, 2021
Most of us are familiar with a sinus infection. But how about sphenoid sinus infection?
Sinuses are air-filled chambers located on either side of our nasal cavity. Aside from improving our voices, its main function is to filter and moisturize the air we breathe before it reaches our lungs. What many don’t know is that there are four types of sinuses: frontal, maxillary, ethmoid, and sphenoid. Each of these sinuses has different tasks.
The sphenoid sinus is lined with cells that produce mucus. This keeps the nose from drying out and moistens the air we breathe. They are located in the sphenoid bone between our eyes right behind our nose.
A sphenoid sinus infection, as the name suggests, is when the sphenoid sinus gets inflamed. Since the sphenoid bone is near the eyes, an inflammation may cause clotting in the small veins in that area. These blood clots can block the blood from reaching the brain causing pressure to build up in the brain itself. It may also affect the facial and optical nerves near your sphenoid bone.
Because of this, a sphenoid sinus infection is more dangerous than any other type of sinusitis. If not treated early, it can even lead to death. The good news is it’s also very rare. Studies estimate that they only make up less than 3% of all sinus infections. And even if they do occur, it won’t necessarily lead to blood clots.
Symptoms of Sphenoid Sinusitis
Because of its position, a sphenoid sinus infection can cause the following symptoms:
- loss of smell
- headache at the top of the head or deep behind the forehead
- neck pain
In severe cases, the patient may also experience face swelling and loss of muscle movement. It can also lead to potentially fatal complications like meningitis, brain abscess, and cranial nerve involvement.
A specific type of sphenoid sinusitis called isolated sphenoid sinus infection may also not have any specific symptoms and signs. But patients may exhibit intermittent headaches for several years which are often described as either dull or sharp. The pain is usually not responsive to analgesics and often leads to sleepless nights.
How Long Does a Sphenoid Sinus Infection Last?
Most acute sinus infections usually resolve within three weeks. Chronic infections, however, last longer. Chronic sphenoid rhinosinusitis, in particular, may persist over 12 weeks.
How to Treat a Sphenoid Sinus Infection
Most sinus infections resolve on their own. But some interventions can speed up the healing process and prevent it from getting chronic. This includes:
Because sinus infections are quite common, there are several treatments you can buy without needing a prescription such as:
- Decongestants. Most acute sinus infections are due to congestion. Decongestants help open up your sinus and allow them to drain.
- Antihistamines. If the inflammation in your sinus is caused by nasal allergies, antihistamines can help. Some doctors, however, warn against taking antihistamines for sinus infection unless prescribed. They argued that antihistamines make mucus thick and hard to drain.
- Pain Relievers. Pain relievers don’t really treat sinus infections but they can lessen the discomfort.
If taking a pill is not really your cup of tea, there are natural ways to relieve symptoms of sinus infections such as:
- Saline Nasal Sprays. Salt-water sprays moisturize the nasal passages which thin mucus secretions. This helps flush out any bacteria that may be present.
- Humidifiers. They keep the air around you moisturized thus preventing your nasal passages from drying out.
- Steam Inhalation. This also helps moisturize your nasal passages. Just bring water to a boil and pour it into a pan. Place a tower over your head and slowly bend over the pan to inhale the steam.
Bacterial infection is one of the most common causes of sphenoid sinusitis. That’s why doctors may prescribe antibiotics to treat sinus infections. But remember that not all sinus infections are caused by bacteria. So do not take antibiotics unless prescribed by your doctor. Overuse or misuse of antibiotics may do more harm than good.
Some cases of sphenoid sinusitis, like those caused by fungal balls, may require surgical intervention.
Remember that sphenoid sinus infections can be fatal when not treated properly. So before you administer any of these treatments, always consult your doctor first.
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About The Author
Judy Ponio is a professional writer based in the Philippines. Her commitment to communicating factual content in when writing is unmatched. She works hard to cross check reputable sources to ensure her work uses accurate facts.