Sinusitis is an inflammation, or swelling, of the tissue lining the sinuses. Normally, sinuses are filled with air, but when sinuses become blocked and filled with fluid, germs (bacteria, viruses, and fungi) can grow and cause an infection. Conditions that can cause sinus blockage include the common cold, allergic rhinitis (swelling of the lining of the nose), nasal polyps (small growths in the lining of the nose), or a deviated septum (a shift in the nasal cavity).
Rhinosinusitis, commonly called sinusitis, is evidenced by nasal congestion, cough, thick nasal discharge, and facial pressure.
Sinuses are hollow cavities within the cheekbones, behind the nose and around the eyes. The sinuses contain mucus to help warm, moisten and filter the air we breathe. An infection can occur when something blocks the mucus from draining normally.
Sinusitis symptoms lasting less than four weeks is called Acute Sinusitis. Most cases start as a common cold and symptoms disappear within a week to 10 days; in some people, a bacterial infection may develop.
Also called chronic rhinosinusitis, is usually diagnosed when symptoms continue for longer than 12 weeks in spite of medical treatment.
Patients with allergic rhinitis or asthma are more likely to suffer from the chronic form of sinusitis, because the airways are more likely to become inflamed when those conditions are present. Sinusitis can also be caused by a deviated septum, a fungus, nasal polyps, a fungus, or sometimes an immune system deficiency.
Sinusitis Symptoms & Diagnosis
Symptoms of sinusitis frequently develop after a cold or during severe or ongoing allergic rhinitis symptoms. The most obvious sign o f sinusitis is a painful pressure in the forehead and cheeks (the sinuses). Other symptoms may include:
- Postnasal drip, often with a bad taste
- This yellow-green nasal discharge
One of our award-winning allergists can identify what allergic triggers might be causing your recurring or chronic sinus infections.
We may also examine your nasal passages using a technique called rhinoscopy or nasl endoscopy. A thin flexible instrument is inserted up the nostril to view the sinus passage and look for any blockage.
We may order an MRI or CT scan to determine if there are any abnormalities in the sinuses, i.e. deviated septum, polyps, or narrow drain passages.
If you’re suffering from a fever, pain of swelling in the eye or face, redness on the cheek or around the eye, severe headaches or a stiff neck.
Sinusitis Treatment & Management
Treatment of sinusitis depends on the cause, severity and duration of symptoms.
About 70 percent of patients with acute sinusitis recover without any prescribed medications. If a bacterial infection is the cause, treatment with an antibiotic can shorten the duration of acute sinusitis. Other treatment options include:
- Decongestants or nasal sprays might help relieve symptoms and encourage drainage of the infection.
- Get plenty of rest, and keep your body hydrated by drinking several glasses of water a day.
- Over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) may be beneficial. Do NOT give aspirin to children under the age of 18.
- In addition to medications, some people with sinusitis find relief by breathing hot, moist air, using hot packs or washing the nasal cavities with a saline rinse.
A bacterial infection is rarely the cause for chronic sinusitis, so treatment with antibiotics won’t help. What will help is to avoid activities and places that may exacerbate your symptoms, especially if your symptoms relate to an allergy.
Intranasal corticosteroid sprays may help with recurring sinusitis, but use it under the supervision of a doctor. If it can be determined the sinusitis involves a fungus, one of our doctors may prescribe an antifungal medication.
If we diagnose allergies we treat them by avoiding triggers, using medications or allergy shots to prevent recurring sinusitis.
Environmental controls such as avoiding allergens are important for patients with rhinitis triggered by indoor allergens such a animal dander, molds or dust mites. This can prevent the need for surgery or prevents recurrence of disease after surgery.
Sometimes treatments or medications fail, leaving endoscopic sinus surgery, but that should always be viewed as a last resort.
Sinus surgery is not a quick fix. Most patients who undergo sinus surgery will still need medical treatment to prevent the return of chronic sinusitis.