Updated 31 July 2017

See what your doctor can discover just by using a torch

Would you feel a little more comfortable with a nasal examination if your doctor only needed to use a torch?

Many people use tricks and hacks to help them complete difficult tasks, but no one expects their doctor to be able to take shortcuts when diagnosing their illnesses.

Sinusitis sufferers often adverse experience symptoms and therefore tend not to enjoy "invasive procedures" every time they go to the doctor for an examination or diagnosis.

A common sinus examination method involves using a local anaesthetic and an endoscope to take a peek into a patient's nose. The process isn't exactly painful, but rather uncomfortable.

Light 'em up:

This is where transillumination comes in - a method many medical practitioners use to pinpoint issues in patients young and old.

Your paranasal sinuses are small pockets in your skull, with the larger areas located in the cheek region, next to your nose and toward the centre of your forehead, just above your eyebrows.

Maxillary Sinuses:

To examine the maxillary sinuses - the cavities located in the skull on either side of your nose - doctors would ask you to slightly tilt your head back and open your mouth.

They would then place the torch on to your cheek where your sinus cavities are located, cover the eye just above the cavity and look at the colour projected on your palate.

Frontal Sinuses:

To examine the cavities in your forehead, a healthcare professional would place the torch in the area next to the bridge of the nose and the eyebrow. They would then cover the torch and eye socket, watching out for the red glow on the forehead.

Should the glow be red and clear, it's considered normal, but if the colour is murky and matted, there may be a mucus build up and the possibility of an infection, needing immediate treatment.

Another less invasive method:

Healthcare professionals also use the technique of gently tapping the sinus cavities to diagnose minor sinus conditions.

If there is no infection or inflammation, it should give off a hollow sound, but if there's mucus build-up, the sound may be muffled and dull.

Instead of needing to perform a big, invasive examination with specialised equipment, your healthcare professional may only need to use his hands or a simple household tool - a torch.


Ask the Expert

Sinusitis Expert

Dr Gary Kroukamp MBCHB, FCORL(SA) is an ENT Specialist, practising from rooms at Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont, Cape Town. He also has a teaching sessional appointment as an ENT Consultant at the Tygerberg Hospital. He is a member of the ENT Society of South Africa and the South African Cochlear Implantation Group. His interests in the ENT field include sinusitis and sinus surgery, nasal allergy and ENT conditions in children.

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