There are two types of sinusitis, chronic and acute. Chronic sinusitis is the long-lasting frequently returning sinusitis, while the acute sinusitis lasts about three weeks or less, happening no more than 3 times per year. Acute sinusitis affects about 14% of people in the U.S. every year. It is usually caused by an upper respiratory viral infection.
Sinusitis is the inflammation or infection of the sinuses, whereby mucus thickens and clogs the openings. Fluid then builds up inside the sinuses, causing increased pressure, causing the bacteria to get trapped and multiply causing infection.
Common Causes of Acute Sinusitis:
Viral infections, such as a common cold
Air pollution and cigarette smoke
Narrowed nasal passages from nasal polyps
Common Symptoms of Acute Sinusitis:
Facial pain (this symptom depends on which sinus is inflamed). Example (reference: www.everydayhealth.com):
1. Frontal sinusitis (behind the forehead) can cause pain in the forehead and pain that gets worse when lying on your back.
2. Ethmoid sinusitis (behind the bridge of the nose) can cause pain between the eyes, eyelid swelling, loss of smell and pain when touching the sides of the nose.
3. Sphenoid sinusitis (behind the eyes) can cause earaches, neck pain, or headache at the top of the head or deep behind the forehead.
4. Maxillary sinusitis (behind the cheeks) can cause pain in the cheeks, under the eyes, or in the upper teeth and jaw.
Oftentimes it is difficult to diagnose a sinus infection during the early stages because it can be mistaken for a common cold. Both sinusitis and common cold can cause nasal congestion and fatigue. One of the differences is the length or duration or illness. The common cold will last 5-7 days, while sinus infection can last for 3 weeks or longer. The other difference is that with sinus infection the mucus discharger is greenish and there is facial pain accompanied by fever.
Some ways a doctor will diagnose sinusitis will be by symptoms, medical history and a simple office examination. The doctor may look into your ears, nose and throat, and may tap or press on your face to test for tenderness over specific sinuses.
Sometimes, the doctor will use other methods if he or she is uncertain of what type of sinusitis you may have. He or she may insert a nasopharyngoscope (a thin, lighted tube with a camera on the end) into your nose to look for abnormalities. X-rays and computed tomography scans also can provide a look at the sinuses, especially those that are deep within the head.
Many sinus infections improve without treatment. However, several medications may speed recovery and reduce the chance that an infection will become chronic.
Decongestants — Congestion often triggers sinus infections, and decongestants can open the sinuses and allow them to drain. Example: Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), Oxymetazoline (Afrin, Dristan and others) and phenylephrine (Neo-Synephrine and others) are found in nasal sprays, antihistamines (Chlorpheniramine, loratadine, benadryl, Claritin, allegro, zyrtec). Nasal steroids — Anti-inflammatory sprays such as mometasone (Nasonex) and fluticasone (Flonase), both available by prescription, reduce swelling of nasal membranes; saline nasal spray (salt-water sprays are safe to use and can provide some relief by adding moisture to the nasal passages, thinning mucus secretions and helping to flush out any bacteria that may be present).
Pain relievers — Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and others) can be taken for headache or sinus pain, and they may reduce some inflammation.
Antibiotics – If your sinusitis is caused by bacterial infection, he or she may prescribe an antibiotic. Antibiotics help to kill bacteria and control infection. Make sure to take or follow directions when taking antibiotic. Even if the symptoms no longer exist, complete the dosage given. This will prevent recurrence of infection.
Avoid or quit smoking – smoke can irritate nasal passageways and increase the likelihood of infection.
Try to treat your nasal allergies before they trigger sinus infections.
If you have congestion from a cold or allergies, the following may help to reduce the risk of developing sinusitis:
1. Drink lots of water. This will help thin the nasal secretions and will keep mucous membranes moist.
2. Use steam to soothe nasal passages. You can either use a steam shower or use a pan with water steaming and cover your head with towel to trap the steam, just be careful not to get too close to avoid burns.
3. Avoid blowing your nose with great force, which can push bacteria into the sinuses.
As with any infection or illnesses, always consult your physician. Make sure to also do your own research so that you know what to ask your doctor.