Anyone who has ever had an allergy attack or a cold that seemingly would not go away was in all likelihood suffering from something called sinusitis. Healthcare professionals estimate that approximately 37 million individuals a year are afflicted with this condition, making it one of the country’s most common health disorders. The actual figures may even be substantially higher than initially believed, as the symptoms frequently mimic those of allergies or colds. This leads many individuals to attempt to deal with this disorder without the appropriate diagnosis and treatment from a medical doctor.
- Sinus Infection
- Acute or Chronic Sinusitis
- Treatments for Chronic Sinusitis
- Antibiotic Resistance and Sinus Infections
- Intensive Antibiotic Therapy for Chronic Sinus Infections
- Nasal Surgery
- Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery
Acute bacterial sinusitis is caused by a type of bacteria that infects the sinus cavities. Such an infection is typically preceded by an allergy attack, cold or irritation to the sinus cavities exacerbated by pollutants in the environment. Unlike allergies and colds, this kind of bacterial infection requires proper diagnosis and treatment from a medical professional, who will usually prescribe an antibiotic to eliminate the infection and prevent complications.
In most cases, mucus that has collected in the sinus cavities drains into the person’s nasal passages. When one has an allergy attack or cold, his or her sinuses are unable to properly drain due to inflammation. This in turn leads to infection and congestion. Those experiencing up to four weeks of purulent drainage in conjunction with facial pain and pressure, nasal obstruction, or both, will probably receive a diagnosis of acute sinusitis from their physician. If the sinus infection symptoms worsen after an initial improvement or persist for ten days or more, the infection is probably bacterial.
Patients suffering from the disorder on a frequent basis, or for whom the infections last three months or longer, may be suffering from a chronic form of the condition. Chronic symptoms are not always as severe as those seen with the acute form of the condition, but if left untreated may lead to sinus damage for which nose surgery may be required.
Therapy for bacterial infections of the nose typically includes antibiotics. One should see a medical professional if he or she has three or more symptoms of inflamed sinuses, as this ensures a proper diagnosis, which is generally followed by a prescription for the appropriate antibiotics. A nasal spray, drop decongestant or oral spray may be prescribed as well, for the purpose of relieving congestion; however, prolonged use of over-the-counter nasal drops or sprays is not recommended. Sinus discomfort can also be relieved by using saline nasal drops or sprays or simply inhaling steam.
Antibiotic resistance refers to a situation where specific bacteria that cause infections become immune to prescription antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance is currently a common problem in the United States, and may make certain nasal infections difficult to treat. Fortunately, antibiotic resistance is something patients can help prevent. One avenue through which this can be accomplished is to wait approximately seven days before treating a nasal infection with antibiotics. This allows the person’s body to naturally fight the bacteria causing the infection. If a physician recommends an antibiotic, the patient must finish all of the medication as per the accompanying instructions, even if there is medicine left over after the symptoms have abated.
If a person’s primary health care provider has given him or her a diagnosis of chronic sinusitis, the intense use of strong antibiotics may be prescribed. In other cases, nose surgery may be required to remove nasal obstructions that may be contributing to the condition.
Nasal surgery such as functional rhinoplasty, is an option that should only be considered when other medical treatments fail or if a nasal obstruction is present for which medications are ineffective. The kind of nose surgery recommended varies from one patient to the next, depending on numerous factors, such as the severity of one’s symptoms.
Surgeries such as functional endoscopic sinus surgery–FESS–or functional rhinoplasty are sometimes suggested for patients suffering from certain types of sinus disease. During FESS, an endoscope is used to look directly into the nasal passages, while polyps and diseased tissues are simultaneously removed. Finally, the narrow channels between the sinus cavities are cleared of any obstructions. Depending on the decision made between the patient and his or her doctor, either a general or local anesthetic will be used during the procedure.
Prior to nose surgery, it is wise for patients to have realistic expectations concerning its outcome, their recovery and all facets of postoperative care. A positive outcome requires not only expert surgical techniques, but a good relationship between the patient and his or her doctor during the healing process. Additionally, it is essential for all patients to follow both preoperative and postoperative instructions received from their surgeon.
When to Call a Doctor
As previously mentioned, symptoms of sinus disorders often mimic those of allergies and colds, and therefore one may fail to contact a physician in a timely manner. Anyone suffering from three or more symptoms of sinusitis should contact a physician.
Because it is much easier to prevent such an infection than it is to cure it once underway, preventative measures are important. Below are some tips on avoiding sinus infections during an allergy attack or cold, as well as ways to keep sinus passages clear:
- Using a short course of decongestant nasal spray or oral decongestant
- Staying well hydrated to keep nasal discharge thin
- Blowing your nose gently by closing off one nostril while blowing through the other
- Avoid air travel but if you must go somewhere on a plane, use a decongestant prior to take-off to prevent mucus to drain and blocked sinuses
- If you suffer from allergies, do your best to avoid triggers. If this is not possible, use an over-the-counter antihistamine or a prescription nasal spray to keep allergy attacks under control.
For more information about your personal condition and treatments that may be necessary for your situation, schedule a private consultation with Dr. David A. Hecht in Scottsdale. Dr. Hecht is double board-certified by the American Academy of Facial Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery and the American Academy of Otolaryngology
— Head and Neck Surgery.
|Facial Pressure /Pain||Yes||Sometimes||Sometimes|
|Duration of Illness||Over 10-14 days||Varies||Under 10 days|
|Nasal Discharge||Whitish or colored||Clear, thin, watery||Thick, whitish or thin|
|Pain in Upper Teeth||Sometimes||No||No|