Sinusitis occurs when the sinus opening becomes plugged, causing sinus pressure to develop and the nose to feel blocked. There are two types of sinus infections, acute (severe) sinusitis and chronic (ongoing) sinusitis.
Acute sinusitis starts out as a cold and worsens over time. Individuals may experience green/yellow nasal discharge, high fever of 102°+, facial pressure around the cheeks, eyes and forehead, and upper molar teeth pain.
Patients with chronic sinus infections usually have recurring acute sinus infections which have failed to be cured. They may also complain of having a continuous cold. Common symptoms include those of acute sinusitis along with a low grade fever, nasal congestion, nosebleeds, chronic sore throat and cough, poor sense of smell and bad breath.
What causes sinusitis?
Sinusitis may be the result of infections, irritants, anatomic problems or allergies.
Most adults will get three colds or upper respiratory infections per year. Children get them more frequently. Bacterial infections often follow a cold. When the mucus changes from clear to yellow or green, it usually means a bacterial infection has developed. Both viral and bacterial infections cause swelling of the tissues inside the nose and thickening of the mucus. This slows down or even stops proper sinus drainage.
Air pollution, smoke, and chemical irritants (e.g. pesticides, disinfectant, and household detergents) may cause swelling and blockage of the narrow channels from the nose to the sinuses, leading to bacterial growth and sinus infection.
In some people, the cartilage and the bone in the center of the nose (called the septum) is shifted to one side. If this shift is severe, sinus drainage on that side can be affected. This can lead to complete closure of one or several of the sinus channels. Mucus builds up behind these obstructions and causes infection. If the swelling becomes severe, the lining of the sinuses can grow excessively. These growths are called polyps, which can cause further blockage of the sinus channels.
Allergies can cause inflammation inside the nose. Common symptoms of an allergic reaction include nasal stuffiness, runny nose, sneezing, and itchy watery eyes. Trapped or stagnant mucus provides an incubator for bacteria, leading to sinus infection. Chronic sinusitis is sometimes associated with asthma. Allergies may cause nasal stuffiness, which strains lungs and exacerbates the asthma.
What will happen at my visit to Mid-Kansas Ear, Nose & Throat?
Before starting treatment, your doctor will take a complete medical history and perform a physical examination. A CT scan or endoscope may be necessary to look inside the nose to evaluate the sinuses and the drainage channels.
Acute sinusitis is usually treated with antibiotics and decongestants. Chronic sinusitis may need long-term treatment (eight weeks or longer) for maximum effectiveness. Medical treatment options include antibiotics decongestant, medicines that thin the mucus, nasal steroid sprays and oral steroids.
If all treatments fail allergy testing and/or sinus surgery may be recommended.