Understanding Sinusitis

Commonly referred to as a sinus infection, sinusitis is an inflammatory process affecting the lining of the sinuses that can be caused from a number of complications, resulting in several symptoms. For sinuses to stay healthy, the channels around the nose and eyes must be clear, allowing proper airflow. When viruses or bacteria in this area begin to worsen, typically generating from common colds, the body reacts by swelling, causing a buildup of mucus and blocking these channels that drain the sinuses.

Sinusitis can range in severity, being defined as either acute or chronic. Acute sinusitis is generally diagnosed if symptoms persist for up to 4 weeks. Typical signs of this may be cloudy or colored drainage from the nose, congestion, or pressure around the sinus areas. It is important to distinguish whether this form of sinusitis is caused by a virus or bacteria, as both are treated differently. Acute viral sinusitis cannot be treated with antibiotics, but rather pain relievers or nasal sprays. Acute bacterial sinusitis can benefit from the aforementioned remedies, but may be more quickly relieved with the help of antibiotics.

Chronic sinusitis may be diagnosed if symptoms last for 12 weeks or longer, and is most commonly caused by prolonged inflammation. Because of this, treatment is different than that of acute sinusitis. Salt water nasal irrigation or nasal sprays are main forms of treatment, but it is important to consider other factors that may contribute to these symptoms. These can include season allergies, asthma, nasal polyps, a deviated septum, or a weaker immune system. Primary signs of chronic sinusitis include postnasal drip, pain in the upper jaw and teeth, persistent coughing, bad breath, and difficulty breathing. Though similar to acute sinusitis, these symptoms last much longer and can cause fatigue, or fever.

With the goal of treatment being a clear nasal passage and reduction in swelling, the standard treatments of nasal sprays and irrigations do not always work. In extreme cases, surgery for the sinuses may be called upon when other treatments fail, the purpose being to widen nasal passages and airways. After surgery, remedies involving direct delivery to the sinuses may have better access once these passages are widened as well.

Sinusitis affects roughly 30 million people across the United States annually, and can come with a variety of symptoms. Though treatable, the difficulty of this infection can progress depending on the strength of one’s immune system. It is vital to see a doctor should you be experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above in order to avoid it from worsening. Even for patients who experience several episodes of sinusitis per year, seeing a medical professional can greatly improve one’s outlook.

Originally published at drsigsbeeduck.com on November 21, 2016.