Sinusitis, commonly called a sinus infection, is the inflammation or swelling of the tissue that lines the sinuses. Your sinuses are made up of four sets of hollow cavities inside your skull, lined with soft tissue called mucosa. These cavities are located in the cheekbones, the forehead, behind the eyes and behind the nasal cavity.
If the sinuses become blocked, they can fill with fluid. If this fluid contains germs, such as bacteria, fungi or a virus, it can grow into an infection. A common cold, allergies, nasal polyps or even a deviated septum can all cause a blocked sinus.
There are four distinct types of sinusitis: acute, subacute, chronic and recurrent. Acute sinusitis is a sudden onset of a stuffy nose and facial pain that lasts for a week to 4 weeks. Subacute sinusitis has symptoms that last from 4 to 8 weeks. The symptoms of chronic sinusitis can last for longer than 8 weeks. Recurrent sinusitis is marked by several attacks over the course of one year.
The symptoms of a sinus infection closely mimic a cold: facial pressure, nasal stuffiness, nasal discharge, loss of smell and a cough. Some may also experience a fever, bad breath and fatigue.
In order to diagnose a sinus infection, your doctor will review your medical history and complete a physical exam. During this exam, the doctor will press your sinuses to test for tenderness. To get a better look in your sinuses, your doctor will perform a nasal endoscopy. A nasal endoscope, a flexible tube with a light and camera on the end, is inserted into the nasal cavity. Your doctor is able to see if there is any sign of structural damage or an obstruction, such as a nasal polyp.
Treatment for a sinus infection can range from home remedies to surgery. A warm compress, inhaling steam from a pot of boiling water and simple saline nasal spray can help alleviate symptoms. Decongestants, either prescription or over the counter, can be used in moderation; any longer than four to five days can actually increase congestion. Antibiotics may also be prescribed if your doctor thinks your sinus infection is caused by bacteria.
If these treatments are not effective at controlling your sinus infection, sinus surgery may be the next step. Traditional sinus surgery involves removing some bone or tissue to widen the sinus cavity. A turbinectomy may be performed; this procedure removes the turbinate bones within the nasal passage. This can be successful in relieving nasal obstruction. Balloon sinuplasty is a fairly new option. A balloon is inserted into the inflamed sinus and inflated, widening the sinus cavity. The balloon is then deflated and removed, leaving behind an opened sinus.
If you are suffering from any of these signs of a sinus infection, contact us. One of our experienced doctors will be able to work with you to come up with a treatment plan that will finally relieve you of these symptoms.