Dry Nose & Sinuses: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment in Denver
Dry sinuses are a common problem in Colorado. The dry climate and cool air can cause frustrating dryness symptoms. ENT experts can help you determine the source of your dry sinuses so you can find true, lasting relief.
Dry sinuses develop when the mucous membranes in your nose and sinus cavities don’t contain enough moisture. If the walls of the nasal and sinus passages lack moisture, uncomfortable symptoms can manifest such as pain and swelling, nosebleeds, and even sinus infections. Dry sinuses can often be relieved with home remedies and lifestyle changes, but severe dryness should be evaluated and diagnosed by a doctor to determine the best treatment.
Symptoms of Dry Sinuses
Dried out sinuses can cause suffering through a number of uncomfortable symptoms. Your breathing, head, nose, mouth, and throat can all be affected by the inflammation and irritation caused by dry sinuses. Some of the most common symptoms of dry nose and sinuses include:
What Causes Dry Sinuses?
There are many different conditions that can bring on dry nose and sinuses. The most common causes of dry sinus cavities include:
Dry Geographic Region
Certain areas of the country have dryer, arid climates which make residents or visitors more prone to dry sinuses. Colorado is a high desert, which means a dryer climate and a greater likelihood of developing dry sinuses. Research shows that older adults are more likely to have issues with dryness in certain environments than younger people. The sinuses can often adjust to new dry climates after a time, but for some living in arid regions may continue to cause dry sinus issues.
Cold or Cool Air
Cool air is often dry air, which means dryness can worsen in cooler temperatures or winter months. Cooler air dries out the mucus membranes in the nasal airways, which can lead to irritation, cracking, and even bleeding. Running the central heating, air conditioners, fans, and other temperature control units in your home can further dry out the air.
Allergic rhinitis (allergies) is the body’s hyperactive response to allergens or irritants in the air or on the skin. The body’s histamine reaction can cause the airways to become irritated and swollen, producing mucus that is thick and congealed because of dry nasal passages. Finding out what you are allergic to with a simple allergy test is an important first step towards getting allergy relief.
Symptoms of allergies include:
- runny or stuffy nose
- sore throat
- itchy or watery eyes
- itchy throat, sinuses, or ear canals
- postnasal drainage
- fluid on the ears
- shortness of breath
Dog and cat dander are common causes of allergies that bring on dry, irritated nasal passages. People with pets in the home should consider keeping them off of laying or sleeping areas such as couches and sofas to help with allergies. A simple allergy can determine whether you are allergic to a specific animal type.
Seasonal allergies that are triggered by pollens, trees and grasses often lead to dry sinuses, nose, and throat. Dryness during allergy season can make allergy symptoms much worse. It’s important to note that over the counter (OTC) antihistamines, which are commonly used to relieve allergy symptoms, can actually increase dryness and make your sinus symptoms worse. Talk to your doctor to make sure the OTC medications you’re taking aren’t contributing to dry sinuses.
Mold or Mildew
Allergies to mold and mildew can also cause severe dryness and congestion just like pet and seasonal allergies. It can seem unlikely that mold could grow in an environment that is also dry, but these allergens can be resilient in damp places throughout the home such as the bathroom and kitchen. If you are using a humidifier to combat dryness it is important to clean it thoroughly and regularly to avoid any mold growth that might make your symptoms and dryness worse.
Not drinking enough water and fluids causes dehydration, which can lead to dry mouth, throught, and mucus membranes. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, signs of dehydration include:
- feeling thirsty
- dry skin
- urinating less frequently
- darker urine
- feeling lightheaded or dizzy
Children with dehydration may produce no tears when they cry, or may appear to have sunken cheeks or eyes.
Sjögren syndrome is an autoimmune condition that prevents the body from creating enough moisture. People suffering from Sjögren syndrome tend to have dry eyes and mouth most of the time, but this disorder can affect the entire body causing mucus membranes to dry out and become irritated or inflamed. If the underlying cause of your dry sinuses is Sjögren syndrome, you may experience one or more of the following:
- dry mouth
- dry eyes
- dry skin
- joint pain
- vaginal dryness
- skin rashes
- chronic inflammation
Sjögren syndrome is usually a long-term condition, but a combination of medication and lifestyle changes can help patients manage their symptoms.
Smoking or being exposed to smoke can increase dryness in your sinuses. Cigarette smoke is the most common form of smoke exposure, but fire smoke, vapor smoke, and other types of smoke can also cause irritation and dry you out.
Many chemicals and products used in daily life around the home can irritate your nasal passages. These irritants can cause you to develop dry sinuses, sore throat, dry nose, nosebleeds, and other symptoms similar to allergies. Some of the most common chemicals and products that can dry out your sinuses include:
- household cleaning products
- hair spray and other beauty products
- industrial irritants (chemicals in the workplace)
- paint or varnish fumes
- strong perfumes and other synthetic fragrances
Immunosuppressant medications can also exacerbate dry sinuses.
How are Dry Sinuses Diagnosed?
Diagnosing dry sinuses is fairly easy. Doctors are quickly able to notice irritation with a minor examination, and the symptoms you describe will say a lot about your condition. However, the more difficult diagnosis is often finding the underlying cause of your dry nasal passages. Symptoms can be a helpful clue to determine the source of your issues.
To diagnose allergies as the source of your dryness issues, doctors will perform a simple allergy test either in the office or from the comfort of your home. The allergy test will bring to light exactly what you are allergic to, and how severely, allowing you to either avoid these allergens or find the best form of relief with help from an ENT specialist.
To diagnose other sinus or nasal issues such as deviated septum, nasal polyps, doctors may complete an endoscopy, where the nasal and sinus cavities are inspected using a long skinny tube (endoscope) with a light or camera attached to the end.
Diagnosing Sjögren syndrome can take more time, but doctors will once again begin with assessing your symptoms. A Salivary flow or blood test may be conducted to determine if you have the antibodies that typically indicate this condition.
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How to Treat Dry Sinuses
There are many different ways to alleviate discomfort from dry sinuses. The best treatment and relief plan will depend on the cause of your dryness. Some are more simple household or lifestyle changes, while others may involve medical advice or intervention.
It’s important to keep the humidity in your home at the right level – around 30 – 50% humidity. If the air in your home is too dry, which can result from both heating and cooling, you may consider purchasing a humidifier for the home. Be sure to clean the humidifier frequently and thoroughly to avoid mold and bacteria.
Drink lots of water to stay hydrated. Not all fluids are created equal, and caffeinated beverages such as coffee and energy drinks can actually make dryness worse. If you drink these throughout the day you will also need to drink water to keep yourself properly hydrated. Fluids with electrolytes can help with more serious dehydration, but severe dehydration may need to be addressed or treated by a medical professional. A steam shower or bath can also help hydrate your mucus membranes and loosen thick congestion.
Avoid Smoke and Alcohol
Smoking cigarettes and other substances worsens dryness and dehydration, as does drinking alcohol. It’s best to avoid these stimulants if you are suffering from dry sinuses. Other smoke such as fire smoke or cooking smoke can have a similar drying effect, and should be limited or avoided to minimize dryness.
Reconsider OTC and Prescription Medicines
It is a common side effect for medicines to cause dryness. Over the counter medications that help with allergies or decongestion, such as antihistamines and some nasal sprays, are particularly known to make dryness worse. You may want to consider over-the-counter emollients or saline rises to cleanse and lubricate your nasal passages instead. You may also want to adjust or change your prescriptions to relieve dry sinus symptoms, but discussing all of your medications with your doctor is the best first step.
Use Allergy Drops
If allergies are confirmed as the cause of your dryness, you may want to consider allergy drops to help alleviate symptoms long term. Allergy drops are an immunotherapy solution to allergy relief, which means it can eventually reduce or eliminate allergic responses after several years of use. This makes it a more effective treatment than over the counter medicines in the long run. Simply taking 3 drops under the tongue each day can help you find a more permanent allergy and dryness solution.
Avoid Exposure to Chemicals and Other Irritants
Avoiding triggers for nasal irritation and dryness whenever possible can help you find relief from dry sinuses and nasal passages. This may mean switching cleaning products to something less abrasive, or stopping the use of perfumes and other potent sprays or products.
When to See a Doctor About Dry Sinuses
Dry sinus symptoms can often be treated or mitigated with home and lifestyle changes, but it’s important to see a doctor when dryness becomes problematic or severe. If your sinus issues and dry airways don’t improve with home and over the counter treatments, you should consult with an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist. This is the best way to find out the underlying cause of your sinus issues.
If dry sinuses aren’t addressed properly, they often build up thick mucus and bacteria which can lead to a sinus infection (sinusitis). You should see a doctor if you have you experience symptoms of sinusitis such as:
- green nasal discharge
- a blocked nose
- tenderness or pain in the face
- headaches toward the front or sides of the head
- teeth or jaw pain
- consistent bad breath
Not all sinus infections are able to be treated with antibiotics, but a doctor will be able to quickly determine whether your infection is viral or bacterial and then guide you on the right path for treatment. If chronic sinusitis continues to occur, doctors may recommend a balloon sinuplasty to increase airflow and reduce irritation long term.
It is also a good idea to see a doctor if you have an autoimmune condition like Sjögren syndrome, or if you are taking any prescription medications that can cause dryness. Sjögren syndrome is often treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, or immunosuppressants to relieve symptoms.
Find Relief from Dry Sinuses and Nasal Issues Today
Dry sinus can make you uncomfortable and cause other issues that disrupt your daily life. Whether you suffer from dryness due to allergies, dry climate, or another underlying cause, the experienced ENT specialists at Advanced ENT & Allergy know how to get to the root of the problem. We’ll help you understand the source of your dry sinuses, discuss all of your treatment options, then help you select the treatment that fits your needs and lifestyle. Stop suffering from dry sinuses and find lasting relief with experts in the field.