How Does Stress Affect the Sinuses?

ENT Centers of Excellence - Stress and Sinuses

Stress can affect your health in a variety of ways, but an often overlooked part of the body that stress impacts is the sinuses. In the same ways stress causes headaches and muscle pain, it can also affect your sinus health.

Stress and Sinus

Stress can weaken your immune system, making your body more vulnerable to infections. These infections can affect the nose cilia that sweeps away harmful substances so they don’t enter your body. When the cilia is compromised, germs enter and can grow. In turn, your mucous membranes swell and block sinus openings. Also, if you’re feeling stressed, you may constantly rub or blow your nose, which can cause further irritation and bacterial infections.

What Is Sinusitis and Chronic Sinusitis?

Sinusitis, commonly called a sinus infection, is a sinus disorder defined as an inflammation of the sinus lining. In healthy sinuses, mucus drains properly through small openings and the sinuses are filled with air. When this drainage is obstructed or the nose produces too much mucus, the accumulation of mucus fills the sinuses, which can lead to inflammation of the sinus lining. Also, germs can grow and cause an infection and unpleasant symptoms can develop.

Chronic sinusitis is a condition that lasts about 12 weeks, but it can also endure for years. Sinusitis is also regarded as chronic if the person develops four or more cases of sinusitis within a 12-month period with symptom-free time between each episode.

What are the common causes of sinusitis?

Sinusitis causes include:

  • The common cold
  • An allergic reaction which swells the lining of the nose
  • Nasal structures that block the nasal passages
  • Various medical conditions
  • Facial trauma such as a broken nose
  • Respiratory infections

What are the symptoms of sinusitis?

Main sinusitis symptoms include:

  • Headache with pressure-like pain, pain behind the eyes, toothache, or face tenderness
  • Stuffy and/or runny nose
  • Sore throat and postnasal drip
  • Loss of smell
  • Cough or congestion

You could also experience:

  • Fever
  • Bad breath
  • Fatigue

How Sinusitis Could Be Related to Stress

Stress can worsen any medical condition, so if you’re prone to bouts of sinusitis, stress can help bring it on more frequently. Stress weakens the immune system, impairing your body’s abilities to fight off infection.

Stress releases hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, which in turn can impair your immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to sinus infections and other ailments. The white blood cells that fight off infection become weaker during periods of stress. Weakened white blood cells could lead to more bouts or longer periods of sinusitis and other infections.

Simple Ways to Relieve Stress

Lowering stress levels is key to keeping your immune system in tip-top shape. The better equipped the immune system is for fighting off infections, the less bouts of sinusitis you may experience.

Exercise: Physical activity is a stress-buster, because exercise releases brain chemicals, such as endorphins, which make you feel less stressed.

Healthy Diet: A body that isn’t getting the necessary nutrition it needs can’t fight stress well. A healthy diet gives your body the nutrients it needs to function correctly.

Drink Water: Your brain needs water to function well. Avoid dehydration by drinking enough water every day.

Deep Breathing: Practice deep breathing exercises throughout the day to reduce stress and oxygenate your body. Sit straight and breathe in through your nose; hold it for a count of ten. Then, release it slowly through your mouth. Do this several times for maximum effect.

Contact ENT Centers of Excellence for more information on sinus care, and how we can help you keep sinusitis under control.

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