Sinus Problems: A Glossary

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on January 15, 2020

If you have problems with your sinuses, you should know these terms.

Ageusia. The loss of the sense of taste. It can happen when you lose your sense of smell due to blocked sinuses.

Anosmia. The loss of the sense of smell. It can happen when your anterior ethmoid sinuses, located between the eyes, get blocked.

Balloon sinuplasty. This procedure can open up your sinuses, much like a heart surgeon uses a balloon angioplasty to free blocked blood vessels to your heart. You can get it done in a doctor’s office, under local anesthesia.

Barosinusitis. This is a sudden pain in one sinus area. It’s caused by swelling and closure of the opening to the sinus.

Cilia. These tiny hair-like structures help move mucus out of your sinuses.

Decongestants. These drugs ease your stuffy nose. They narrow your blood vessels and reduce blood flow to your nasal passages.

Deviated septum. It’s a shift in the vertical bone (septum) that divides the right side of your nose from the left.

Functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS). Your surgeon will use a tool called an endoscope to look into your nose. Then they’ll remove blockages to help your sinuses drain.

Mucus. The material made by the sinuses. Under normal conditions, they make about 6 cups of it a day. But allergies or other triggers like smoking can boost your mucus factory.

Nasal wash. A treatment that involves rinsing your sinus passages with a saline solution made at home or bought over-the-counter.

Nasal endoscopy. Your doctor uses a tool called an endoscope to look at the inside of your nose and sinus drainage area. Also called rhinoscopy or sinus endoscopy.

Nasal steroid spray or drops. Treatments used to ease swelling in the nasal passages.

Polyps, nasal. Tissue growths that can block your sinus passages.

Post-nasal drip. This is mucus from your sinuses that drains down the back of your throat.

Rhinoscopy. See endoscopy.

Septoplasty. A surgical procedure meant to straighten the nasal septum, a vertical bone that divides the two halves of your nose.

Sinuses. These hollow air spaces lie behind your cheekbones, and between and just above your eyes. They make mucus, which normally drains into your nose. You might feel pain if the drainage is blocked due to a cold or allergy.

Saline rinse. You use it to clean out your sinuses. You can buy one over-the-counter or make at home by mixing salt and water.

Turbinate. These structures within your nose, also called conchas, help moisten and filter the air as it passes through.

WebMD Medical Reference



Medline Plus: "Sinusitis."

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: "Sinus Infection (Sinusitis)."

American Academy of Otolaryngology--Head and Neck Surgery: "Fact Sheet: 20 Questions About Your Sinuses."

National Jewish Health: "Sinusitis."

American Academy of Family Physicians' "Sinusitis."

American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology: "Rhinosinusitis: Terminology (Glossary of Terms)," "Sinusitis: What are Sinuses?" and "Topic of the Month: October 2004: Stuffy nose and cough, sinusitis season is back."

Acclarent web site.

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