Ethmoid and sphenoid sinusitis is the inflammation of the sinuses located between and behind the eyes. This is usually due to a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection. There are different ways to treat this depending on the cause. In this article, we’ll look at the symptoms, causes, and treatments of these conditions.
- 1 Ethmoid and Sphenoid Sinuses
- 2 Symptoms of Ethmoid and Sphenoid Sinusitis
- 3 Common Causes of Ethmoid and Sphenoid Sinusitis
- 4 Treatments for Sphenoid and Ethmoid Sinusitis
Ethmoid and Sphenoid Sinuses
Ethmoid sinuses and sphenoid sinuses are two of the four paired paranasal sinuses. The ethmoid sinuses are located between your eyes and the bridge of your nose. Meanwhile, the sphenoid sinuses are located above the nose and behind the eyes.
Ethmoid sinuses are the most sites affected by sinusitis. Illness-causing germs have a harder time infecting the sphenoid sinuses because of their location. However, when sphenoid sinuses catch an infection, it could lead to serious complications, like meningitis. This is because they’re closely associated with the optic nerve, which connects your eyes to your brain.
Symptoms of Ethmoid and Sphenoid Sinusitis
Inflammation of the ethmoid sinuses will generally cause eye-related symptoms. Your eyes may become puffy, while the area between the eyes and bridge of the nose may feel painful when you touch it.
It’s harder to diagnose sphenoid sinusitis. Doctors will normally request for a CT scan and blood test to determine the germs present in your sinus. Other symptoms of sphenoid sinusitis are postnasal drip, sore throat, and pain (behind the eyes, at the back of the neck, on top of the head, ears, or temples).
Regardless of which sinus is affected, sinusitis has the following symptoms:
- Thick nasal secretions that are yellow or green in color
- Sore throat
- Congested nose
- Flow of nasal secretions at the back of the throat
You may also want to check out our article about pansinusitis, what causes it, and how to treat it.
Common Causes of Ethmoid and Sphenoid Sinusitis
Upper Respiratory Tract Infections
Sinusitis typically develops after an upper respiratory tract infection, such as the common cold or flu. This causes sinusitis by causing inflammation and swelling of the nasal passageway. The obstruction interrupts the normal flow of mucus, which creates the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, causing pain and pressure over the affected sinuses.
The germs that cause sinusitis will differ depending on the sinuses they infect. Generally, short-term or acute sinusitis is due to bacteria. Compared to a viral infection, a bacterial sinusitis lasts longer and produces harsher symptoms.
Weak Immune System
Persistent or long-term infections only happen when you have a weak body defense system. If you have sinusitis, it could be a sign that your body is unable to fight diseases and infections adequately. Opportunistic fungi, like Mucorales, Candida, and Aspergillus, can grow and thrive in the sinuses and eventually cause fungal sinusitis, a long-term health problem.
Chronic sphenoid sinusitis is more common among people with pansinusitis.  Simply put, pansinusitis is the inflammation of the four pairs of sinuses. People with poor immune system or suffering from any upper respiratory infections, such as flu and the common cold, are at risk for this condition.
Pansinusitis is caused by bacteria and viruses that grow in the secretions, which are unable to flow to the back of the throat because of obstructed nasal passages. According to Mayo Clinic studies, pansinusitis is more likely due to the immune system’s reaction to fungus in the nose.
This is a dangerous medical condition. That’s why prompt medical attention should be given to prevent the development of life-threatening diseases, like a brain infection.
Short-term sinusitis usually comes after an allergy attack. If your allergy keeps coming back, there’s a possibility that it’s actually sinusitis.
When you inhale an allergen (dust, pet dander, pollen, etc.), your immune system overreacts by releasing certain antibodies and other pr0-inflammatory chemicals to attack it. One of these chemicals is histamine, which is responsible for many allergy symptoms, like sneezing or clogged nose.
Inflammation causes your sinuses to swell. This in turn prevents mucus from draining into the nasal passages, so it starts to build up in the sinuses. This causes pressure and infection (due to the trapped germs). This could eventually lead to a condition called sinusitis.
Structural Abnormalities of the Nasal Passage
Structural problems of the airway could set the condition for infection. For instance, a displaced septum—that’s the bone that divides the inside of your nose—could prevent the proper drainage of secretions from your sinuses. The secretions contained in your sinuses could encourage the growth of bacteria that could cause respiratory infections.
Other types of structural abnormalities of the nose:
Adenoids are soft masses of tissues found in your throat, behind your nose. Like the lymph nodes, they also protect your body from possible infections that could harm your health. They start to shrink when you reach five, and then completely disappear when you’re ten to fifteen years old. That’s why it’s unusual for adults to have inflamed adenoids.
When adenoids are severely or chronically inflamed, they become enlarged and block the airways. This cause breathing difficulties and chronic sinus infections. Antibiotics are usually effective treatments—if the causative agent is bacteria.
Nasal polyps are abnormal tissue growths that are usually located in the ethmoid sinuses. They are relatively common conditions that affect as much as 4% of people.  It’s still not clear why people have them, but they’re often associated with allergies, infections, asthma, chronic sinus inflammation, cystic fibrosis, aspirin sensitivity, hay fever, digestive disorders, and chronic respiratory tract inflammation.
Symptoms of nasal polyps include:
- Obstruction of the air passages (main symptom)
- Loss of smell
- Increased mucus production from the nose
- Postnasal drip
- Pain in the face (less common)
An abscessed tooth is a pocket of pus inside your tooth that could spread to the surrounding tissues. It’s usually a complication of a decayed or chipped tooth. When the outer covering of your tooth is broken down, bacteria are able to go inside and cause an infection. Sinusitis happens because your upper molars, the large teeth you use for grinding and chewing, are located near the sinuses.
Never take tooth abscess lightly because it could lead to serious complications. The good new is it’s curable if you receive the right treatment immediately. Your dentist will most likely draw off the pus by piercing the abscess or by creating a hole to free the pus inside your tooth. If that doesn’t work, your dentist may give you antibiotics to clear the infection.
Treatments for Sphenoid and Ethmoid Sinusitis
Like in other types of sinusitis, the goal of treatment is to ease inflammation and help drain your sinuses. There are different ways to do this, ranging from home remedies to surgery. Here are some of them:
Contact your doctor as soon as possible
Diagnosing ethmoid and sphenoid sinusitis can be difficult. Certain symptoms may overlap with other upper respiratory problems. In the case of sphenoid sinusitis, it’s not easy to diagnose because it lacks the usual symptoms of sinusitis and the location of the pain is felt almost anywhere. Doctors confirm their diagnosis through endoscopy, CT scan, allergy tests, and evaluation of the immune response.
A doctor will only recommend surgery once a person doesn’t respond positively to conservative treatments, such as medications. Surgery is risky, especially in the case of sphenoid sinusitis because of the location of the sinuses affected.The risks could include bleeding, CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) leakage, meningitis, scarring, and recurrence of the infection, among others.
Intranasal Corticosteroid Sprays
A corticosteroid spray is an anti-inflammatory medicine that doctors prescribe to treat nasal polyps and allergy symptoms, such as itching, swelling, congestion, and sneezing. It works best when you use it daily for at least two weeks.
To achieve its full effects, it’s important that you know the correct application techniques. The goal is to make sure the medicine remains inside your nose, but it shouldn’t drip down your throat or from your nose. Here are a few steps you could follow when using an intranasal corticosteroid spray:
- Before spraying, clear your nostrils of mucus by lightly blowing your nose.
- Shake the bottle then “prime” it by spraying it in the air a couple of times to ensure you receive the appropriate amount of medicine.
- Slightly lean your head towards the front, and then exhale slowly.
- Direct the nozzle towards the back of your nose to prevent irritations.
- Inhale slowly as you introduce the medicine into your nose.
- Avoid sneezing or blowing your nose for at least ten minutes after spraying.
Some possible side effects of corticosteroid sprays are throat irritation, nosebleed (rare), and headache.
Sphenoid and ethmoid sinusitis could be treated using antibiotics, but they’re often not necessary. For one, some cases of sinusitis are due to viruses, which antibiotics don’t treat. According to WebMD, most people with sinus infections (60% to 70%) recover without taking antibiotics. What’s more, antibiotics are poorly absorbed by the sinuses. That’s why treatment usually lasts for two to three weeks.
Steam doesn’t treat the disease, but it can help relieve congestion and improve circulation in your sinuses to allow drainage of thick secretions. There are different ways you could do this:
One, you could place a warm damp towel on your face for at least five minutes.
Two, you could pour warm water into a bowl, place a towel over your head, and position your face a few inches away (around 10 to 12 inches) from the bowl.
Three, take a hot shower to relieve nasal congestion and sinus pressure fast.
Chicken soup helps because the steam coming from it relieves congestion and pain. But it seems that that’s not just the advantage of eating chicken soup. Studies have shown that the ingredients in chicken soup can fight off inflammation.
What’s the secret to its healing properties?
The chicken in the soup contains cystine. This amino acid has almost the same chemical makeup as acetylcysteine, a drug used for treating respiratory infections, such as bronchitis.  Researchers are not exactly sure what’s in a chicken soup that makes it so effective. One theory is the chicken and veggies (carrots, parsley, onions, parsnips, etc.) in it are responsible for its healing effects.
Drinking lots of fluids will keep the inside of your nose moist. It also thins out thick nasal discharges to make them easier to expel. The amount of fluid people need will vary. The Institute of Medicine says men should drink at least 3 liters per day, while women should drink at least 2.2 liters per day.
You can drink juices, coconut water, and other types of liquids to replace lost fluids from your body. However, water is still the healthier choice for keeping yourself hydrated.
Saline Nasal Solution
A saltwater or “saline” nasal solution is one of the cheapest and simplest ways to relieve symptoms of sinusitis. You can either purchase this at your local pharmacy or make one at home. If you decide to make your own saline solution, here’s a recipe given by WebMD:
- Combine 8 ounces of distilled water or tap water, ½ teaspoon of table salt, and ½ teaspoon of baking soda.
- If you decide to use tap water, make sure to sterilize it by bringing it to a boil and keep it boiling for at least one minute.
- Allow it to cool before using.
The great thing about saline solution is it doesn’t contain medications. Thus, it’s relatively safe to use as often as you can.
Don’t take sphenoid and sphenoid sinusitis lightly. If medicines and home remedies don’t help improve your symptoms within two days, see your doctor as soon as you can to get an accurate diagnosis and to know your treatment options.
Have you ever had ethmoid sinusitis or sphenoid sinusitis before? What treatments worked best for you? Don’t forget to leave your comments about below. I’d love to hear them!