The paranasal sinuses are eight (four pairs) air-filled spaces, or sinuses, within the bones of the skull and face. These are divided into subgroups that are named according to which bones they lie under;
the maxilliary sinuses, also called the antra, are under the eyes, in the upper jawbone.
the frontal sinuses, over the eyes, in the bone of the forehead.
the ethmoid sinuses, between the nose and the eyes, backwards into the skull.
the sphenoid sinuses, in the centre of the skull base.
The function of the sinuses is not entirely clear, but they may fulfill any or all of the following:
Decreasing the relative weight of the front of the skull
Helping to warm and humidify inhaled air before it reaches the lungs
Increasing resonance of the voice
Providing a buffer against blows to the face
The paranasal sinuses are joined to the nasal cavity via small orifices called ostia. These become blocked relatively easily by allergic inflammation, or by swelling in the nasal lining which occurs with a cold. If this happens, normal drainage of mucus within the sinuses is disrupted, and sinusitis may occur.
Sinus disease is integrally related to multiple disease processes and environmental factors that affect the head and neck.
Sinus disease occurs in several forms, but all are related to a combination of infection and the inability of air to get into sinuscavities from the nose.
Sinus surgery, opening the sinuscavities so air can reach the mucosa in a "functional" way, allows reversal of the disease process as long as the mucosal and bone of the sinuses has not been too badly damaged by the infections.
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