What factors can lead to impaired ciliary function?

Updated: Mar 01, 2018
  • Author: Itzhak Brook, MD, MSc; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Ciliary action can be affected by genetic factors, such as Kartagener syndrome. Kartagener syndrome is associated with immobile cilia and hence the retention of secretions and predisposition to sinus infection. Ciliary function is also reduced in the presence of low pH, anoxia, cigarette smoke, chemical toxins, dehydration, and drugs (eg, anticholinergic medications and antihistamines).

Exposure to bacterial toxins can also reduce ciliary function. Approximately 10% of cases of acute sinusitis result from direct inoculation of the sinus with a large amount of bacteria. Dental abscesses or procedures that result in communication between the oral cavity and sinus can produce sinusitis by this mechanism. Additionally, ciliary action can be affected after certain viral infections.

Several other factors can lead to impaired ciliary function. Cold air is said to stun the ciliary epithelium, leading to impaired ciliary movement and retention of secretions in the sinus cavities. On the contrary, inhaling dry air desiccates the sinus mucous coat, leading to reduced secretions. Any mass lesion with the nasal air passages and sinuses, such as polyps, foreign bodies, tumors, and mucosal swelling from rhinitis, may block the ostia and predispose to retained secretions and subsequent infection. Facial trauma or large inoculations from swimming can produce sinusitis as well. Drinking alcohol can also cause nasal and sinus mucosa to swell and cause impairment of mucous drainage.

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