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Common Sinus Problems continued...

Narrow Sinuses

More often, certain people just have variations in their anatomy that creates a longer, narrower path for the transition spaces to drain. “It’s pure genetics, since it’s the way we’ve inherited how our sinuses are put together and how easy or difficult it is for them to stay open or become blocked,” Albritton says.

Sinus Sensitivity and Allergies

Finally, there are certain people who have sensitivity to things in the environment and to the foods they eat. This sensitivity triggers a dilation of blood vessels in the nose, and sometimes releases chemicals from cells in the nose that cause swelling.

Your doctor can prescribe medications to control your symptoms. People with sinus problems and allergies should avoid environmental irritants such as tobacco smoke and strong chemical odors, which may increase sinus problems.

Protecting Your Sinuses

Try these tips to reduce inflammation and prevent sinus problems:

  • Apply a warm, moist washcloth to your face several times a day to help open the transition spaces.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to thin the mucus.
  • Inhale steam two to four times per day (sit in the bathroom with the hot shower running).
  • Use a nasal saline spray several times per day.
  • Wash the nose with a salt water solution from a neti pot.
  • Try a humidifier to moisten the air you breathe and help open sinuses.

If your sinus problems are related to allergies, consider these steps:

  • Avoid your allergy triggers.
  • Try antihistamines and decongestants if needed.
  • Talk to your doctor to see if you need a nasal steroid spray.
  • Discuss allergy shots (immunotherapy) with your doctor to see if they’re right for you.

Lastly, if you have recurrent sinus problems, you might talk to your doctor about surgery to clean and drain the sinuses.

“Surgery is designed to take care of the anatomic issues and to remove the areas that are narrow and causing the blockage,” Albritton says. The newest methods are less invasive and use a balloon catheter like an angioplasty to dilate the opening of the sinuses and create wider spaces.

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