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Sinusitis is an uncomfortable medical condition in which the sinuses become inflamed or infected due to interference in the natural drainage of mucus. Your sinuses are located behind your nose, around your eyes, and in your cheekbones. When you develop sinusitis, you may experience severe pain, nasal discharge, ear fullness and a cough. Sinusitis can come on suddenly and subside quickly, or it can develop more gradually and linger for many weeks. No matter what type of sinusitis you might have, a visit to a ENT for a proper diagnosis and treatment is the first step to finding relief from this often painful condition.
Causes of Blocked Sinuses
There are a variety of reasons why the sinuses might become blocked:
- Colds and Other Infections – A cold may cause your sinus and nasal lining to swell, causing sinus openings to become blocked so that mucus backs up. This becomes the perfect environment for bacteria to grow, leading to an infection.
- Allergic Reactions – Sensitivity to some substances can lead to the release of histamine, which makes your sinus and nasal linings swell and in turn clogs your sinuses and prevents cilia from sweeping away mucus.
- Polyps – These growths inside the sinuses consist of a sac of swollen tissue. A polyp may block the middle meatus, where most of your sinuses drain. The blockage can lead to pain, inflammation and infection.
- Deviated Septum – This occurs when the central partition inside your nose, known as the septum, is crooked. The deviation may block the middle meatus, affecting the ability of the sinuses to drain properly.
By diagnosing the cause of the blocked sinuses, we can treat sinusitis at the source. This approach offers the greatest odds of full symptom relief and lowers the risk of a recurrence of the condition.
Are You at Risk for Sinusitis?
Some people are at higher risk for sinusitis than others. Risk factors for the condition include:
- A chronic condition like asthma, which may impact the ability of the sinuses to drain properly
- An allergic condition that leads to inflammation of the sinuses
- Deformities or abnormalities of the nasal cavities, such as polyps or a deviated septum
- Persistent exposure to some pollutants, including cigarette smoke some perfumes, and chemicals
- Disorders affecting the immune system, such as cystic fibrosis or HIV
If you know you have an increased risk of sinusitis, you can seek treatment at the first sign of the condition for fast relief from painful symptoms.
Types of Sinusitis
Sinusitis can be either acute, meaning it is short-lived, or chronic, which refers to sinus pain and pressure that lasts for many weeks or tends to recur frequently. There are basic differences between the two:
Acute Sinusitis – This condition is often associated with a viral or bacterial upper respiratory infection that spreads to the sinuses. Acute sinusitis is usually treated with antihistamines and decongestants to reduce inflammation and decrease fluid production. The bacterial infection can be treated with antibiotic medication.
Chronic Sinusitis – This condition is characterized by a sinus problem that keeps coming back or won’t go away. This is often caused by long-standing allergies, obstructions or irritants. Chronic sinusitis can be treated with medications to relieve congestion and reduce fluid secretion, irrigation to clean out old mucus and antibiotics to treat any bacterial infections.
The symptoms of sinusitis may vary somewhat, depending on whether the condition is acute or chronic. Common symptoms of acute sinusitis include:
- Facial pain
- Postnasal drip
- Nasal congestion
- Redness of skin over area of sinus
Chronic sinusitis might be characterized by the following symptoms:
- Facial pain and pressure
- Headache and sinus pain
- Nasal congestion
- Postnasal drip
- Reduced smell and taste
- Persistent cough
- Sore throat
Other symptoms of either type of sinusitis might involve:
- Ear fullness
- Green, yellow or bloody drainage from the nose
- Frequent headaches in the forehead, between the eyes, cheeks, or upper teeth
If you experience any of the symptoms of sinusitis, an appointment with our office will ensure your condition is accurately diagnosed and the best treatment is recommended. There are different ways to address sinusitis, depending on its severity, longevity and specific symptoms the patient is currently experiencing.
The Diagnostic Process
Different methods can be used to diagnose sinusitis:
This is a standard way to determine whether there is a problem with the sinuses. During this test, a flexible tube with a light at the end, known as an endoscope, provides the physician with a view inside the nasal cavity. The procedure is not painful and can be performed right in our office.
In some instances, your doctor may want to see sinuses that cannot be examined through a nasal endoscopy. In this case, a CT scan performed in our office may be ordered to collect images of those areas. These tests may reveal inflammation deep inside the sinuses, or a physical obstruction like a polyp that may not be detected through other means.
People with chronic sinusitis may be advised to undergo allergy testing if an allergic reaction is suspected as a culprit in the inflammation. A blood or skin test can be performed in our office and takes a couple of hours to complete. You will be tested for a broad range of indoor and outdoor substances, which may provide insight into how to manage or treat your allergies to reduce your symptoms of chronic sinusitis.
Sinus tissue cultures are not frequently used as a way of diagnosing sinusitis, but they can be helpful if you are not responding well to treatment. This type of test can help to pinpoint the bacteria or fungi in the tissue that may be contributing to the symptoms.
There are a variety of ways that sinusitis can be treated, but the primary goal of any treatment is to encourage healthy drainage, reduce inflammation and eliminate the underlying cause of the condition when possible. Some of the treatments used for sinusitis include:
- Nasal irrigation using a saline rinse to clean out allergen and pollutants
- Topical or systemic Corticosteroids that treat inflammation and prevent it from returning
- Aspirin desensitization if aspirin sensitivity is contributing to your nasal congestion
- Antibiotics if an infection is present
- Sinus surgery in cases where the condition is not relieved through irrigation and medication
At Acadian Ear, Nose, Throat & Facial Plastic Surgery Center our team of specialists is experienced in diagnosing and treating all types of sinusitis. To learn more or schedule your appointment with us today, give our office a call at 337-237-0650.