Learning about your sinuses

Here you can learn what your sinuses are, what they are do, and a bit about what can go wrong. To the left are thumbnail images that will guide you through a sinus and nasal learning experience. If you select one of the thumbnails on the left, it will show you the larger version and a description. Follow the images on the left from top to bottom, they are in a specific order that makes learning about the sinuses easy. If you would rather view animated and narrated images, select "Sinus Video Images" on the right. The animated section goes into more detail and is narrated, The still section has higher resolution pictures and is quicker to browse. If you have 3-D Glasses of any sort choose "Stereoscopic Sinus Images" on the right.

What are the sinuses?

The sinuses are air spaces within bone that branch off of your nasal air passage. It is usually best to separate the nasal cavity from the sinuses as far as describing their purpose, anatomy, and associated problems is concerned. It makes more sense after looking over the images to the left. Think of the nasal airway as the hallway that air flows through; from nostrils, past the turbinates, to the adenoid region and separated by the nasal septum. Think of the sinuses as all of the spaces that are sort of like little rooms and closets off of this hallway.

Why do we have sinuses?

My answer is, you don't need additional space for airflow, but you do need additional space. You need space to separate your eyes for stereoscopic vision. You need space between your mouth and your eyes to keep food out of your eyes. You need space between your face and your brain, to protect your brain. If these spaces weren't the strong, scaffolding-like air filled bony sinuses, then they would probably be solid bone. If they were solid bone, your head would weigh too much. Other thoughts are related to enhanced smell receptor surface area found in other animals but not in humans and resonance space for making communication sounds. The answer is really not fully known, and many people would gladly have a heavier head to be rid of this sometimes troublesome body part.

When I was in medical school, I was taught very little about the sinuses. Only in ENT residency were those topics well covered. It is not surprising that this part of the body is a mystery to most patients and to most primary care physicians. I hope that the work I have put into these images will help others understand this complicated and troublesome body region.