Sinusitis affects over 30 million people in the US each year. It occurs when a your sinuses become inflamed. The sinuses are air-filled cavities located in the cheeks, behind the forehead and eyebrows, on either side of the nose and behind the nose in front of the brain.
Normal sinuses are lined with a thin mucus layer that traps germs and air particles. Tiny hair-like projections called cilia sweep the mucus and all that’s trapped in it to the back of the throat where it slides down to the stomach. Sinusitis occurs when swollen sinuses cause the cilia to become blocked, interrupting normal mucus discharge and trapping mucus in the sinus cavities.
Acute sinusitis can last up to four weeks. Subacute sinusitis can linger for three months. Chronic sinusitis lasts for three or more months.
Causes of sinusitis
- Infection: A viral infection like a common cold can lead to sinusitis. If symptoms do not go away within 10 days, bacteria may be the cause, in which case antibiotics are prescribed. A fungal infection can also cause sinusitis and antifungal medications are used as treatment.
- Allergies and irritants: Seasonal or yearlong allergies can cause the sinuses to become inflamed. Additionally, airborne irritants that you may not be specifically allergic to can also cause sinus cavities to swell.
- Anatomy or structural abnormalities: People with narrow sinus openings or a deviated septum can be more prone to sinus infections. Nasal polyps, or benign growths in the nasal passages can also lead to sinusitis.
Common sinusitis symptoms include:
- Congested or runny nose
- Postnasal drip
- Discolored nasal charge
- Facial pain or pressure
- Loss of smell
- You may also experience fever, bad breath, fatigue or dental pain.
How long and how often you experience symptoms helps determine whether your sinusitis is acute, subacute or chronic. Contact a physician if your symptoms do not improve or worsen within 10 days or you are prone to chronic sinus infections. In-office diagnostic options may include a nasal endoscopy, nasal and sinus cultures or allergy testing. Your physician may order a CT scan to show details of your sinus cavities that are difficult to pinpoint using the endoscope.
The root cause of sinusitis helps determine the best course of action to take. Options include:
- Decongestant or steroid nasal sprays
- Antifungal medication
- Nasal saline washes
Your physician can discuss treatment options with you to assess the best route to consider. Often times, a combination of treatments works well.
If you suffer from chronic sinusitis and have had little success with treatment options, surgery may be recommended. Usually anatomical abnormalities, such as a deviated septum, narrow sinus passages or nasal polyps are reasons to pursue surgery.
One surgical option is Balloon Sinuplasty, a safe and effective procedure that does not involve cutting nasal bone or tissue. The procedure opens the sinus passages to relieve pain and pressure. Depending on your diagnosis and previous treatment approaches, this procedure may be considered.