A sinus is a cavity, and a person has four pairs of cavities, or empty spaces filled with air, behind the cheeks, nose and forehead. A sinus infection (sinusitis) is the inflammation of those sinuses. Sometimes the inflammation causes the sinuses to become filled with fluid instead of air. Usually, the sinuses create a mucus that drains unnoticed through the nose and down the back of the throat. It serves as a kind of filtration system, working to keep the nose free of bacteria or other irritants. But a sinus infection can develop when the fluid gets stuck.
Most often, sinus disease is caused by a virus, but sometimes bacteria causes it. There are two common types of sinusitis:
- Acute sinusitis. The symptoms last a short time — no more than four weeks. This kind of sinusitis usually stems from a virus, such as the one that causes the common cold.
- Chronic sinusitis. The swelling and infection lasts longer than three months. There may be periods of respite, but it won’t go away.
The common symptoms of sinusitis include a cough, fatigue, pressure around the face, ear pain, headache, aching teeth, post-nasal drip, runny or stuffy nose, fever, and bad breath.
The risk factors for sinus disease include:
- Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.
When to see a doctor
In general, people can address the symptoms on their own until the sinusitis clears up. However, you should seek treatment if you experience:
- Severe headache or facial pain, or other severe symptoms.
- Symptoms that last more than 10 days without improvement.
- Fever for more than three or four days.
- Symptoms that seem to improve but then worsen.
- Multiple sinus infections in a year.
Doctors can use various methods to diagnose sinus disease including:
Nasal endoscopy. The use of a flexible tube — an endoscope — equipped with a light and camera to look into the sinuses and nasal passages.
Imaging studies. Doctors may perform a CT scan or MRI to look for structural problems.
Nasal and sinus samples. Swabs may be used to collect a fluid sample so tests can look for viruses, bacteria or other causes. On rare occasions, a biopsy may be done to take tissue samples for testing.
Allergy testing. For chronic sinusitis, these tests may be done to identify triggers.
Sinus infections are fairly common, and they often can be treated with over-the-counter medicines, rest, and drinking plenty of fluids. In addition, treatment may include:
- Intranasal and systemic corticosteroids. Nasal sprays address inflammation. Experts recommend against the use of nonprescription sprays or drops for more than three to five days because they might increase congestion. Oral or injected corticosteroids may be prescribed for severe cases.
- Antibiotics. These may be prescribed if it’s determined to be a bacterial infection
- Nasal saline. Neti pots, rinse bottles, and pre-filled containers may be used to clear the sinuses of mucus.
- Mucolytics. Mucolytic agents, such as guaifenesin, may thin out the mucus to make it easier for it to drain from the sinuses. Medicines often combine them with decongestants, which address inflammation.
- Treatments for underlying factors. This category includes medicines recommended for allergies, such as allergen immunotherapy, and immunodeficiency. It also includes surgery for structural problems like polyps or a deviated septum.
- Biologics such as Dupixent, Nucala, Xolair. These medications may be prescribed for chronic sinusitis with nasal polyps because they can reduce the size of the polyps and ease congestion.
Treatment for Sinus Disease
The medical professionals at Florida Medical Clinic can help determine whether you have sinus disease, what the cause is and how to treat it. Contact us today to make an appointment.
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