When I see a patient with facial pain my goal is to determine if there is some underlying problem of the nose or sinus system that may be causing that pain. The pain sensors in the muscles, bones, tendons, and cartilage of the face are some or the most sensitive in the entire body. Think about it, your lips and tip of your nose just barely have to be touched to trigger the sensitivity of a sneeze or the pain that something is too hot.
Sensitivity is not specificity. What does that mean? In the face it means that a sensation may be triggered in one part of the face but felt in another. A classic example is a “brain freeze” when you eat something cold. Pain in one part of the face, mouth, throat or neck can be triggered from a different location.
Sinus headaches are a common source of vague facial pain. Some people will feel sinus pain very specifically. They will notice pain in their cheeks or forehead. The pain can be variable. It may be sharp pain that is constant. It may be a dull aching pain. Sometimes nothing makes it worse; sometimes positional changes will make it worse. Weather and temperature changes can be associated with sinus pain. Chewing can make it worse; sneezing can produce very sharp sinus pain in some people. Sudden temperature changes can trigger facial pain that is originating in the sinuses.
Our 3 largest sinuses: the maxillary, frontals, and sphenoid have small openings that pass into the nose. It is important for these sinus openings to stay open and communicate with the nose. If they become blocked they become susceptible to developing a negative pressure that can produce a vacuum effect in the sinus, in turn this can produce pain symptoms by stimulating nerve endings in the sinuses and the associated tissue around the sinuses. Often times patients with facial pain, especially a pressure type pain will notice that their pain is worse when they bend over or lay down. They also will notice that their headaches will increase when there is a change in barometric pressure during periods of rain. Acute temperature changes can also trigger their headaches. An example in the summer is walking from outdoors into a room that is air conditioned.
Another problem will develop if the sinuses don’t communicate through their natural openings, namely infections. The sinuses produce mucus. That mucus is moved into the nose by natural forces. If that mucus cannot drain into the nose it will back up in the sinuses. It will eventually be contaminated by viruses and bacteria and can become infected. When the sinuses are infected several symptoms can occur. These include facial pain, pressure, discolored nasal secretions, malodorous breath, dental pain, pain around the eyes, temperature and facial swelling.
The new minimally invasive technique called Balloon Sinuplasty (or balloon sinus dilation) can be used to dilate the openings of the sinuses. By enlarging the sinus openings, the sinuses will be able to communicate with the nose in a normal fashion. This improves the health of the sinus, allows the mucosa to cleanse itself, allows the mucus produced in the sinus to be eliminated through the nose, and generally keeps the system in a healthy equilibrium.
For many patients Balloon Sinuplasty produces a long-standing resolution of the problems. It is a quick, one-day procedure with minimal risks and is performed in the office with no downtime for recovery or side effects. It is considered much more natural than continual antibiotics, nasal steroid sprays, and extensive sinus surgery. Nasal Balloon Sinpulasty cost is typically covered by insurance, so please call our office for more info.