Sinus Infections

Sinus Infections

A sinus infection, also called sinusitis, is inflammation and swelling of the tissues that line the sinuses. This interferes with normal mucus drainage, leading to breathing difficulties, pain and pressure. When the condition persists for 12 weeks or longer, it is considered chronic.

Causes & Symptoms

Sinusitis is the number one reported chronic condition in the United States, affecting an estimated 37 million Americans. It’s most often caused by an infection brought on by a cold or allergies, but may also be the result of nasal polyps, a deviated septum, trauma to the face, hay fever, complications from immune system disorders or tumors.

Individuals suffering from sinusitis experience a variety of cold-like symptoms such as nasal congestion and discharge, postnasal drip, sore throat, facial pressure and swelling, loss of smell and taste, headache, fever, fatigue and bad breath. Complications can include asthma attacks, meningitis, vision problems, aneurysms and stroke.

Diagnosis & Treatment

In addition to a physical examination and a review of your medical history, your doctor will inspect your nasal passages for polyps, abnormalities, inflammation and a buildup of fluid. Additional tests utilizing nasal endoscopy, CT scans, MRIs and allergy tests can be used to help confirm the diagnosis.

Treatments will vary depending upon the severity of your sinus infection and whether it’s an acute or chronic condition. Saline nasal sprays and corticosteroids are useful for rinsing your nasal passages and relieving inflammation. Decongestants are a good short-term solution, but extended use can actually worsen the condition. Antibiotics are usually prescribed for bacterial infections.

Antihistamines, nasal steroid sprays, saline washes and oral steroids all provide long-term relief. More permanent solutions such as immunotherapy (allergy shots or drops) or surgery can bring relief to those suffering from chronic sinusitis.

Chronic Rhinitis

Rhinitis is similar to hay fever, but is caused by something other than an allergen. Dubbed non-allergic rhinitis to differentiate the two, it produces cold-like symptoms that can leave you feeling miserable and worn-down. Rhinitis is common and can be brought on by a variety of factors. Viruses, bacteria and other irritants can all cause symptoms. Non-allergic rhinitis isn’t just bothersome; if untreated, it can cause nasal polyps, chronic sinusitis and ear infections.

Your doctor will diagnose non-allergic rhinitis based on your symptoms and medical history. Mild cases of rhinitis may respond to simple home remedies; irrigation of the nasal passages with a Neti pot, using a humidifier to moisten the air and drinking lots of liquids can all help. In addition, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter or prescription drugs including antihistamines, decongestants and saline or corticosteroid nasal sprays. Surgery is necessary for nasal polyps, a deviated septum or any other physical abnormalities.