UNIVARSITY.ORG | How Can Sinusitis Affect Vision?
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14 Jun How Can Sinusitis Affect Vision?

It is not un-usual for sinusitis to have an effect on your vision. The most common symptoms are things like blurry eyes, a dull ache in the eye socket and photophobia. Although they are often ignored, these problems can lead to very even more devastating symptoms.

The small openings in the facial bones, in the eyes and the around the nose are known as the sinuses. What you may not know is that the sinuses also act as a protection system, preventing damage to the eye. The sinuses are similar to a car bumper because, if you crash a car, the bumper will always take damage first. Similarly, the sinuses will always take damage before the eyes. The sinuses prevent any big impact to the eye which may lead to more severe problems such as; blindness.

Our sinuses can easily get infected and they often do. In a way, the sinuses are filters for the body and just like any other filter; they can become congested with dust and debris. As this debris accumulates, it causes local inflammation, secretion of excess mucus (in order to clean out debris) and sometimes bacterial overgrowth. In response to this sinus inflammation, the body will close off the nasolacrimal tube that connects the eyes and the interior of the nose. This tube allows thorough drainage of our tears, which our eyes secrete regularly to keep our eyes moist. When this tube is closed off, it can lead to blurry vision or excessive tear ejection. Once sinusitis is gone, your eyes will go back to normal. Only a small percentage (around 15 %!) of sinusitis cases are caused by bacterial infection. Bacterial infections tend to trigger more inflammation and thus more severe symptoms. Your vision can be badly affected by bacterial infections.

Osteomyeltiis can happen if the frontal sinuses become infected. This inflammation affects the bone itself so therefore, it can gradually infect the eye socket. Symptoms such as severe pain above the eyes, blurred vision, dark spots in the visual field and photophobia can be caused by osteomyeltiis. If you feel this may be the case, you MUST see your physician immediately. It is rare that this will cause an actual orbital infection with bacteria.

However, an orbital infection can be triggered by a bacterial infection of the ethmoid sinuses. The ethmoid sinuses are going down the middle of the face and when they become infected, you feel deep pressure down the middle of your face. Orbital infections can have symptoms such as loss of eye movement, drooping eyelids and a sharp pain in the eye itself. As mentioned before, you MUST see your physician quickly if this happens.

An orbital infection can lead to very bad health problems if allowed to progress. If not cured immediately, the infection can travel via the veins in the eyes to the cavernous venous sinuses which are in the brains, and may in fact cause an abscess, meningitis, coma, seizures or even death. This is an extremely rare case, however, it can happen.

As sinus infections can cause a retarded blood movement, they may in fact cause blood clots. The blood accumulates and forms a solid ball that can travel to various venous passageways throughout the body. The eyes are vulnerable to blood clots as they are surrounded by many venous plexuses. If venous drainage is blocked in any way, it can cause a rise in intraorbital pressure. A pupil that is fixed in a dilated position is the first sign.

Even though bacterial infections and the severe symptoms they carry are rare, their serious consequences make them something you need to know about. If any of the aforementioned signs show up, you must visit your doctor as soon as possible.



Adam Maher

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