Frontal Sinusitis: What Causes It and Are There Complications

Difficulty breathing and pressure around the eyes could indicate frontal sinusitis.

Difficulty breathing accompanied by a feeling of pressure around the forehead, particularly the eyes, could be an indication of inflamed frontal sinuses. So, what causes the inflammation of the frontal sinus and how is this condition treated? Plus, what are the symptoms of frontal sinusitis?

Quick Overview of the Frontal Sinuses

The frontal sinuses consist of four small cavities filled with air found behind the eyes. It is accompanied by three pairs of paranasal sinuses which produce mucus that then drains through the nasal passages. However, an excess of this fluid or inflammation of the frontal sinuses prevents proper mucus drainage. This results in a condition known as frontal sinusitis.

What is Frontal Sinusitis?

An infection or inflammation of the sinuses found at the back of the eyes is a condition called frontal sinusitis. Inflamed or infected sinuses become inefficient at draining mucus. This, in turn, leads to difficulty breathing and increased pressure felt on the forehead and around the eyes.

If symptoms of frontal sinusitis last more than four weeks, then it is considered acute frontal sinusitis. Acute sinusitis may spread towards the anterior cranial fossa which results in subdural or extradural meningitis or abscesses.

Symptoms

Common symptoms associated with frontal sinusitis include the following.

High or mild feverFeeling of pressure behind the eyes
Sore throatMarked reduction in the ability to smell
Blocked nose Unpleasant or Foul-Smelling Breath
Headache Nasal Discharge
Facial Congestion Tiredness
Muscle Aches

Depending on the cause, symptoms of this condition may vary. A sore throat, muscle aches, fever, and tiredness most likely indicate a viral infection. On the other hand, an individual is most likely to have bacterial sinusitis if the condition worsens after ten days. Symptoms that last more than a few months may likely be a result of an issue with the nasal structures, such as nasal polyps or a deviated septum.

What Causes It?

As mentioned, frontal sinusitis is caused by a number of factors. Such causes include the following.

Bacterial Infection

This occurs when an individual’s immunity is weak, and the frontal and nasal sinuses become vulnerable to infection. Furthermore, infections of the sinus lasting 10 to 14 days indicate bacterial infection rather than a viral infection. Sinusitis caused by bacteria needs antibiotic treatment.

Viral Infection

The common cold is a virus that often blocks the airways of the sinus. This results in an increased production of mucus which, in turn, causes inflammation and pain of the frontal sinuses. Infections that are viral and affect the upper respiratory tract are also likely to result in frontal sinusitis.

Nasal Polyps

Painless and soft growth found in the sinuses or inner lining of the nose is termed as a nasal polyp. Such a condition is associated with inflammation and is likely to develop because of recurring infections, chronic respiratory diseases, or allergies to medicines or environmental irritants. A nasal polyp is harmless, in most cases. However, it may be dangerous once it blocks or restricts the flow of mucus and air through the sinus.

Deviated Nasal Septum

The thin wall of cartilage and tissue dividing the nasal cavity in two is called the nasal septum. Ideally, a nasal septum separates the nasal cavity in equally sized passages. However, some individuals are born with a deviated nasal septum which may cause problems with breathing. It may also block the air flowing through the sinus. Moreover, an individual with this condition is likely to have recurring infections, specifically frontal sinusitis.

Allergic Rhinosinusitis

Pollen, animal dander, and dust are allergens that may cause itching and sneezing. Regular exposure to such allergens may lead to mucus buildup and inflammation. Such accumulation of mucus blocks the sinuses and, in turn, prevents smooth drainage of the mucus.

Diagnosis

Before treatment is given, the attending healthcare provider asks about the symptoms and the duration of these manifestations. This is to differentiate acute frontal sinusitis from the common cold. A quick physical examination is also done which involves lightly tapping on the frontal sinuses to determine tenderness and pain.

An individual is most likely to be referred to a specialist, particularly an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) doctor. This specialist checks the nasal cavity for indications of inflammation or the presence of a polyp. Mucus samples are also taken to check for infection. Furthermore, additional tests are done to diagnose the condition as acute frontal sinusitis. Such tests include the following.

  • Allergy Tests
  • Nasal Endoscopy
  • Blood Tests
  • Imaging Tests (MRI or CT scan)

Treatment

The primary goal of treatment is to keep the sinuses clear and improve mucus drainage. Depending on the reason for sinus blockage, treatment options differ. For frontal sinusitis caused by a viral infection, treatment involves over-the-counter decongestants, plenty of rest, and appropriate amounts of fluid.

As for frontal sinusitis caused by bacterial infections, treatment involves antibiotics. Allergies that cause frontal sinusitis is treated with antihistamines or corticosteroid nasal sprays. Doctors also recommend that an individual steer clear of allergens.

Individuals with nasal polyps or a deviated septum may require surgery. This treatment method resolves the issues causing the blockage permanently which, in turn, improves the function of the sinuses and overall health.

Complications

If the symptoms of frontal sinusitis last more than 12 weeks, then the condition is called chronic frontal sinusitis. The cause is likely an ongoing inflammation. For long-term frontal sinusitis, it is highly recommended to seek the aid of a specialist to determine the cause. This is because cancers or tumors may develop in the cavities of the sinuses.

Furthermore, bacterial infections of the sinuses that remain untreated may spread. It may affect organs in the neck or head, including the brain. Such infections are fatal. If the following symptoms manifest alongside frontal sinusitis, then it is highly advised to seek immediate medical attention.

  • A High Fever
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty Focusing
  • Persistent and Severe Headaches
  • Redness or Swelling of the Eyes, Eyelids, or the Face
  • Stiffness or Pain in the Neck
  • Sudden Problems with Vision

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