Sinus pressure and dizziness are often experienced by people with chronic conditions that cause sinusitis, an inflammation of the facial sinuses. The health issues that most often cause these symptoms are infections and allergies. Typically, the symptoms are mild, but for some people, they can become very debilitating. In most cases, treating the cause of the sinus pressure will alleviate the dizziness and as well as the other symptoms caused by the congestion.
The cavities located behind the eyes, nose, and cheeks are called the sinuses. They are coated with a thin layer of mucus, which helps them stay moist and supple. If the sinuses become irritated, such as by allergies or an infection, they swell and produce excess mucus, causing congestion. Symptoms of congestion can include headache, facial pain and pressure, and nasal discharge. The Eustachian tubes connect the ears to the nasopharynx, the upper part of the throat behind the nasal cavity, so inflammation of the sinuses can affect this passageway. When this happens, dizziness or vertigo can often result, as structures within the inner ears help the body maintain balance.
Allergies to airborne substances can lead to inflammation of the nasal membranes, also called allergic rhinitis. Typical symptoms include sneezing, itchy red nose, swelling of the nose, nasal discharge, and tearing. Within a few hours of contact with the allergen, sinus inflammation, congestion, pressure, and dizziness can develop. These late-phase symptoms can last several hours or even days. Treatment is typically based on medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal steroid preparations, which help relieve the swelling.
Sinus pressure and inflammation — which can trigger dizziness — is often caused by an infection. Most are caused by viruses, such as those which cause the common cold, and last between seven and ten days. These infections are usually discrete events that do not recur. Since these illnesses are not caused by bacteria, antibiotics are unnecessary; the most effective medications are typically decongestants that help thin and dry up mucus secretions. Other ways to manage the congestion include good hydration to help thin mucus, and steam inhalation to aid in clearing nasal blockages.
Chronic or recurring sinusitis tends to be bacterial in nature. If a single infection lasts longer than seven to ten days, broad-spectrum antibiotics are typically prescribed. A single course is usually enough to clear up the infection. In the case of recurring infections, or infections that don’t respond to antibiotics, a person might be referred for medical tests, like a CT scan, nasal swab, or tissue sample, to determine whether there are any complications.
People with chronic sinusitis or allergic rhinitis are at risk of developing nasal polyps, which are small benign growths that develop on the membranes of the nasal passages. While they often appear in response to chronic allergy or infection, they can also occur spontaneously. Nasal polyps can lead to partial or full loss of taste or smell, increased congestion, and further facial pressure and pain. In addition, they can increase the likelihood of nasal and sinus infections recurring. Polyps can be treated with medications such as steroids, but surgery is sometimes required to remove them.
The nasal septum is the wall between the nostrils; when it is deviated, it is closer to the left or right nostril, instead of being in the center of the nose. This makes one of the nasal passages smaller than the other, giving the smaller one reduced airflow. The smaller nostril has a high risk of frequent blockage and nosebleeds; sinusitis can develop over time, leading to the typical symptoms of pressure, pain, and possible dizziness. Surgery is needed to correct the problem, and after the nose has healed, all of the symptoms are usually resolved.
When to Seek Medical Treatment
Someone who experiences dizziness along with sinus pressure should see his or her healthcare provider promptly. Since the brain and eyes are located so close by, an untreated sinus infection can lead to serious complications. Abscesses can develop in the nasal and sinus cavities, and meningitis is a risk if the infection spreads. Warning signs of brain involvement include changes in personality or consciousness, visual disturbances, seizures, and coma.