Category Archives: Immunology (allergy)

Asthma.
Sinusitis.

Paranasal sinuses and sinus conditions

The videos on this page can be downloaded upon purchase of a license on Alila Medical Media website. Click here!


Paranasal sinuses, or simply “sinuses” in common language,  are air cavities in the bones of the skull. There are four pairs of sinuses (see Fig. 1, 2 and upper panel of Fig. 3):

– the maxillary sinuses are under the eyes, in the maxillary bones.
– the frontal sinuses are above the eyes, in the frontal bone.
– the ethmoid sinuses are between the nose and the eyes, in the ethmoid bone.
– the sphenoid sinuses are behind the nasal cavity, in the sphenoid bones.

Sinusitis
Fig.1: The four pairs of sinuses. Red = frontal, green =  ethmoid, blue = sphenoid, beige =  maxillary. The right panel show normal sinuses on half of the head and inflamed sinuses on the other half. Click on image to see a larger version on Alila Medical Media website where the image is also available for licensing.

 

The sinuses are lined with respiratory epithelium producing mucus. The mucus drains into nasal cavity through small openings (Fig. 2 left panel, Fig. 3 upper panel). Impaired sinus drainage has been associated with inflammation of sinuses (sinusitis, see below).
Biological function of the sinuses remains unclear.

Nose anatomy labeled. .
Fig. 2: Front view of the sinuses (left panel) showing connections to the nasal cavity. Right panel shows mid-sagittal section of the head. Click on image to see a larger version on Alila Medical Media website where the image is also available for licensing.

 

 

Sinusitis or rhinosinusitis is inflammation of the paranasal sinuses (Fig. 1, right panel). This can be due to:
– allergy (allergic rhinitis): allergens such as pollen, pet dander,.. trigger overreaction of the mucosa of the nose and sinuses resulting in excess mucus, nasal congestion, sneezing and itching.
– infection: usually as a complication of an earlier viral infection of the nasal mucosa, pharynx or tonsils such as during a common cold. Impaired sinus drainage due to inflammation of nasal mucosa during a cold often leads to infection of the sinus itself. Cold-like symptoms plus headache and facial pain/pressure are common complaints.
– other conditions that cause blockage of sinus drainage: structural abnormality such as deviated nasal septum (Fig. 3); formation of nasal polyps (Fig. 4). When a sinus is blocked, fluid builds up making it a favorable environment for bacteria, viruses or fungi to grow and cause infection.
Deviated nasal septum
Fig. 3: Front view of the sinuses (upper panel) showing connections to the nasal cavity, also shown the nasal septum (light blue color). Lower panel shows deviated septum blocking drainage of the right maxillary sinus (your left). Click on image to see a larger version on Alila Medical Media website where the image is also available for licensing.

 

 

 

 

Nasal polyps

Fig. 4: Nasal polyps – overgrowths of nasal mucosa – block sinus drainage. Click on image to see a larger version on Alila Medical Media website where the image is also available for licensing.

 

 

 

Treatment depends on the cause of sinusitis:
– For viral infection : symptom relief medications such as nasal spray for irrigation and decongestion; other conservative treatment for common cold such as rest and drinking plenty of fluid.
– For bacterial infection: antibiotics may be prescribed.
– For allergy: intranasal corticosteroids are commonly used.
– For recurrent (chronic) sinusitis due to structural abnormalities or nasal polyps, nasal surgery may be recommended.

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Asthma (with Animation Video)

The videos on this page can be downloaded upon purchase of a license on Alila Medical Media website. Click here!


Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition where the airway is inflamed and narrowed causing breathlessness, wheezing, chest tightness and coughing. Symptoms come as recurrent episodes called asthmatic attacks more commonly during the night and early morning. Asthma is usually diagnosed in childhood and lasts for life.

Anatomy of asthma

Our lungs consist of millions of air tubes or airways (bronchi and smaller bronchioles) bringing air in and out of the body. Each tube ends with a cluster of air sacs (alveolus, plural alveoli) where the gas exchange process takes place. The airways have a layer of smooth muscle in their wall which enables them to constrict or dilate. In response to the body’s higher demand of air, such as during exercise, the airways dilate to increase air flow. In response to presence of pollutants in the air, they constrict to prevent the lungs from being polluted. In people suffering from asthma these airways are inflamed, narrowed and become more sensitive to certain substances. Asthmatic attack (or exacerbation) happens when the airways react to these substances. During the attack smooth muscle contracts squeezing the airways making them even narrower, mucus secretion increases further obstructs the airways.

Causes of asthma

Causes of asthma are complex and not fully understood but likely involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Family history is a known risk factor for asthma. There are at least over twenty genes associated with asthma of which many are involved in the immune system. Most people who have asthma also have allergies. Many environmental factors such as air pollution, chemicals, smoking, allergens have been associated with development of asthma or triggering of asthmatic attacks.

Triggers of asthmatic attack

Triggers are factors that initiate the attack, these can be very different from person to person. Common triggers include :
– allergens (pollen, animal fur, pet dander, sulfites in preserved food..)
– irritants (cigarette smoke, industrial chemicals, dust, household chemicals,..)
– some medication (aspirin, beta blockers,..).
– physical activity, exercise.

Treatments

There is no cure for asthma. The most effective way to manage symptoms is to identify the triggers of asthmatic attack and avoid them.
There are two main classes of medication:
– bronchodilators – substances that dilate bronchi and bronchioles – are used as short-term relief of symptoms.
– inflammation moderators such as corticosteroids are used as long-term treatment.
Asthma inhalers are used to deliver medication to the lungs.

Associated conditions

A number of conditions tend to occur more frequently in people with asthma:
– Allergies :  eczema and hay fever. These individuals are considered hyperallergic (high tendency to develop allergic reactions). The combination of these conditions is called atopy or atopic symdrome.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): a condition in which stomach acid backs up and damages the mucosal lining of the esophagus. GERD may worsen asthma symptoms and medications for asthma often worsen GERD symptoms. Treating GERD usually improves asthma and must be included in asthma treatment plan.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): asthmatic patients tend to develop OSA. The mechanism is not fully understood but it’s likely due to nasal obstruction. Click on the link to read more about OSA.
Sinusitis: inflammation of paranasal sinuses. Sinusitis commonly worsens asthma symptoms and makes treatment less effective.

                                                                                                        See all Respiratory topics

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