Sinusitis is an infection of the nasal passages that is viral, fungal, or bacterial in nature. This condition results in excess mucus congestion of the nasal cavities and a host of annoying symptoms. In normal functioning of the nasal cavity, a mucus-producing membrane and cilia capture bacteria, dust, pollen and other pollutants and transport them out where they can do no harm. When there is an interference with this function, an infection may result.
Sinusitis is a very common condition, more common than people may realize. We sometimes fail to identify this condition for several reasons. Many of us are not aware of the physiology of the sinus and where they are located, and this condition can initially be mistaken for the common cold or allergy.
Statistics vary depending on the source but the average rate of occurrence is about one in eight individuals will experience sinusitis each year. Those who have an immune deficiency condition are more susceptible to developing this condition.
Understanding the Sinus
We have four pairs of sinuses: frontal which are above the eyebrows, maxillary which are in the cheekbones, ethmoidal are below and under each side of the nose, and the sphenoidal are further behind the ethmoidal sinuses. The obstruction of the Ostia, which are openings in the sinuses that function as a drain into the nose, is the most common cause of sinusitis.
Obstruction of the sinus frequently occurs after a cold, the flu, or from an allergic reaction which causes an inflammation of the nasal tissue. This swelling prevents mucus from draining out of the sinus, making it an ideal place for bacteria to develop. Other reasons a blockage of the sinus may occur include: a deviated septum, tumors, swollen adenoids, and an overuse of nasal decongestants. Smoking may increase susceptibility to sinus infections as will some underlying conditions such as hay fever, allergies or asthma.
Symptoms of sinusitis are markedly different than those experienced by individuals who have the common cold or influenza. Common symptoms experienced include: headaches, pain in the upper teeth, facial tenderness, bad breath, cough, difficulty sleeping due to severe post nasal drip, and nasal congestion and discharge that is yellow in color.
Sinusitis can manifest as an acute attack or a chronic condition. The acute version will typically occur after an individual has suffered from a cold for several days and the nasal discharge is yellow or green in color. An individual may experience constant pain or tenderness (facial pressure) in the forehead, cheeks, and around the eyes, and he or she may develop a fever and/or swelling near the sinuses. Contrary to the acute version, the chronic form is usually accompanied by dull pain and a stuffy nose due to congestion of the sinuses. Often the individual has a runny nose which can lead to a cough and/or sore throat. It is generally not life threatening although this chronic form can sometimes develop into a serious health issue. This condition is of special concern when there is an underlying health issue such as asthma. The acute form can become chronic. The risk for this is much greater in people over 50 or those who suffer with underlying conditions. For anyone experiencing the symptoms discussed above, it would be wise to consult with a physician.
It is common for people to self-diagnose a cold or flu when they really have sinusitis. Whereas the cold or the flu will last approximately a week, sinusitis may last several weeks and will include more debilitating symptoms. To be properly diagnosed and to receive proper treatment, a person should visit their physician who can prescribe a proper course of treatment.
When you see a doctor for this condition, he will examine the sinus and look for inflammation. He will frequently tap the face in order to see where the infection is located, he may take a culture, an x-ray, or in some cased the doctor may order a CT scan.
There are several options in the treatment of sinusitis. They include antibiotics, antihistamines, pain medication, increased fluid intake, decongestants to promote drainage and clearing of the ostia, and hot compresses to stimulate blood flow and drainage.
If antibiotics are part of the treatment regimen, there are several that are commonly used. Currently, for those individuals who do not suffer from penicillin allergies, cephalosporin Ceftin is a frequent drug of choice. For those with penicillin allergies, Biaxin or Trimethoprim with sulfamethoxazole is frequently prescribed. Amoxicillin was commonly used in the past and may still be prescribed today for those patients who are not allergic to penicillin. Other drugs that might be prescribed include fluoroquinoline drugs (i.e. Levaquin, Raxar, or Trovan).
It should be noted that the chronic form does not always respond well to medications. Doctors may determine that washing out the sinuses before prescribing medication would be beneficial to ensure the effectiveness of the treatment. An allergist may also need to be consulted when the condition becomes chronic, as allergies may be a primary factor, in which case antihistamines may be able to effectively prevent the regular occurrence of the infection. In extreme cases, surgery may be suggested for those persistent infections in which the sinuses do not drain adequately regardless of the treatment taken. Although there are many surgical solutions, the aim is to provide an opening from the sinuses to the nasal cavity to effectively drain any fluid and prevent infections from developing.
Those whose sinus infections are somewhat minor may prefer to treat their condition holistically, and there are several options available. Washing the nasal passages with a saline solution can be an effective topical treatment, especially when the solution includes colloidal silver. Quercetin is a supplement that can be found at the health food store; it is a natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory that can help to diminish the production of mucus. Steam treatments can be effective as they help to drain mucus from the sinus. Finally, it may be wise to avoid certain foods while you are experiencing your sinus infection. Foods that may cause excess mucus include dairy, wheat, and sugar.
There is no guaranteed method to insure that an individual will not develop sinusitis although there are steps that can be taken to minimize these infections. To reduce the risk of developing this condition, it is imperative that a person try to keep an open passage from the sinus to the nasal cavity so that proper drainage can be achieved and bacteria is not allowed to grow. If an individual suffers from an immune deficient condition such as asthma or cystic fibrosis or if they suffer from allergies, taking medications to control the symptoms will assist in minimizing the swelling of the membrane. Minimizing exposure to pollutants such as cigarette smoke or chlorine in a swimming pool will also prevent irritation as will using a humidifier in the dry seasons.
Although sinusitis is not completely preventable, a person can minimize his or her chances of developing the condition and if diagnosed, treatment is readily available and effective if properly taken. It is important for individuals to visit their physician if they suspect they have more than the common cold and to complete the full course of treatment if diagnosed with sinusitis. Recognizing the symptoms of sinus infection and prompt treatment may minimize the discomfort and duration of the condition. click here to learn more about sinusitis