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May 8, 2022   Return


According to Ear, Nose, & Throat (ENT) Consultant Dr Kaw Bee Lian,  sinuses are air-filled cavities in our skull. There are 4 groups of sinuses:

  • Frontal sinus, located in the forehead
  • Maxillary sinus, located in both cheek regions
  • Sphenoidal sinus, located behind the nose
  • Ethmoidal sinus, located in between the eye and nasal bridges

What is sinusitis?

Sinusitis is an inflammation or swelling of the mucosal lining of the sinuses. It can be caused by a viral, bacterial or fungal infection. 

People who are more prone to sinus problems include:

  • Those with nasal septal deviation or nasal polyps. These structural abnormalities in the nose interrupt and block the drainage system of the sinuses. It leads to a build-up of mucous in the sinuses and can subsequently cause infection
  • Smokers
  • Those with poor general health or are immunocompromised

The symptoms

Sinusitis usually starts with symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection. Common symptoms include:

  • Nasal blockage and running nose
  • Fever
  • A feeling of facial heaviness, discomfort or pain
  • Headache aggravated by bending the head down
  • Some may also notice a foul-smelling discharge from the nose


  • Antibiotics and medications to reduce swelling inside the nose may be given, as prescribed by a doctor
  • Nasal spray
  • Nasal douche to help clear out discharge from the nasal cavity 

Home remedies that may also help alleviate symptoms include:

  • Drinking plenty of water 
  • Applying warm compresses over the cheeks, nose and eyes

What are the potential complications that can occur if sinusitis is not treated?

If sinusitis is left untreated, it may progress into chronic sinusitis whereby the patient would experience persistent facial discomfort and have foul-smelling nasal discharge. 

Because the sinuses are close to the eyes and brain, in some rare cases, untreated sinusitis can lead to meningitis (an infection of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord), brain abscess, or other infections. It’s best to see your doctor if you have any concerns. 

Dr Kaw Bee Lian is a consultant ear, nose, and throat (otorhinolaryngology) specialist affiliated with Pantai Hospital Sungai Petani.