Sinusitis, also known as a sinus infection, is one of the most common reasons to visit an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor. In fact, 37 million people contract a sinus infection each year in the United States, according to Health.com.
A common misconception is that sinus infections are related to the nose, when actually, the sinuses are hollow spaces or cavities located behind your nose, cheekbones and forehead.
The type of sinus infection you contract could depend on what spurs the infection in the first place. The beginning stages of a sinus infection involve inflammation of the nasal tissue.
Nasal tissue can become inflamed by a common cold, nasal polyps or allergies, among other causes. Once the tissue is inflamed, the holes to the sinuses can no longer drain properly.
This lack of drainage is what causes the discomforting symptoms of sinus infections, including:
• Thick yellow or green postnasal drainage
• Difficulty breathing through the nose, or stuffy nose
• Pain and heaviness around the eyes, cheeks, nose or forehead
• Pressure in your face or swelling in sinus lining
• Coughing up phlegm
• Tooth pain
As with anything, all sinus infections are not created equal. There are four different sinus areas in the face, as well as four different types of infections. The four types include:
• Acute: The most common; lasts up to four weeks and generally does not require antibiotics –usually caused by viruses or bacteria
• Subacute: Sinus infection that lasts 4-12 weeks
• Chronic: Sinus infection that maintains unrelenting symptoms for 12 weeks or longer caused by prolonged inflammation, rather than a longstanding infection
• Recurrent: Three or more sinus infections in one year
Although most acute sinus infections do not have long term effects, those who suffer from chronic sinusitis could face other obstacles. A recent article by HealthDay revealed that people with chronic sinusitis (or CRS) are more prone to developing depression.
Tips to Prevent Sinusitis
• Get a flu shot – preventing influenza can also indirectly fend off sinus infections
• Try using saline nasal spray
• Avoid smoking or being exposed to secondhand smoke
• Try using a humidifier, dryness is one of the key irritants of the sinuses
• Avoid chlorine for extended periods of time (swim for limited amounts of time and avoid diving, which forces the chlorine water into nasal passages)
Unless your sinus infection is bacterial – most acute cases are not – you will not be prescribed antibiotics. Other treatments for sinusitis include nasal steroids or over-the-counter decongestants.
If these methods do not improve your chronic sinusitis, it may be time to consider sinus surgery. The most common surgery for the sinuses is called endoscopic sinus surgery.
Pinnacle ENT Associates (PENTA) offers a new solution called Balloon sinuplasty, for those who are hesitant to resort to traditional surgical methods. Balloon sinuplasty is a procedure that employs a catheter-like instrument to remove blockages in the sinuses.
To learn more, watch our educational video about the procedure:
Chronic sinusitis is more prevalent in older people, affecting 14% of Americans aged 65 and above. Treatment and medications disbursed are more closely monitored with older patients.
Since the majority of older Americans suffer from other chronic illnesses, ENT doctors want to ensure that any prescribed medication will not cause the patient negative side effects or conflict with other existing treatments.
In terms of surgery, otolaryngologists occasionally recommend sinus procedures for older patients, though it is significantly less common than with younger patients.
For extended information on sinusitis and sinus-related treatments, visit the “Nose and Mouth” section of our Patient Education Center here.
To book an appointment, call 610-902-6092 or request an appointment online.