Understanding Paranasal Sinus Infection

Paranasal sinus infection, known to many as sinusitis, is an inflammation that affects the paranasal sinuses due to various factors such as certain infections, allergies, and other autoimmune issues. In most cases, the infections are viral in nature, and can last for about 10 days. It is a common condition (with over 24 million cases recorded within the United States alone) and will become either acute or chronic over time. Paranasal sinus infection forms up a cave system within the human skull, particularly surrounding the nose area. These nasal cavities are linked to the sinuses via small passages. Sinusitis (also called rhinosinusitis) is also classified into various categories:

Understanding Paranasal Sinus Infection

  • Acute rhinosinsitis- this is considered a new infection type (symptomatically subdivided into severe and non-severe cases) known to last for four weeks.
  • Recurrent acute rhinosinusitis – this manifests into four or more distinct acute sinusitis episodes that occur simultaneously within a year.
  • Subacute rhinosinusitis – this is a particular infection known to last about four to twelve weeks, representing the transition from acute to chronic infection stage.
  • Chronic rhinosinusitis – the signs and symptoms for this infection type can last for twelve weeks or more.
  • Acute exacerbation of the chronic rhinosinusitis infection – this manifests whenever the symptoms of an existing chronic rhinosinusitis exacerbate, though it is also known to return to baseline after any treatment.

It is important to note that all these sinusitis infection types display similar symptoms, all of which are usually difficult to distinguish. An acute sinusitis infection in particular is a very common case anywhere, as a good number of the adult population have had suffered paranasal sinus infection at some stages in their lives.

Acute paranasal sinus infection is normally precipitated by an early stage upper respiratory tract infection, which is viral in most cases. If it is bacterial in origin however, three very common agents stimulate the infection, namely Haemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Moraxella catarrhalis. Just recently, Haemophilus influenzae became the most common agent to cause paranasal sinus infection.

Fungal invasions are also known to bring about acute sinusitis episodes. Such infections manifest in diabetes patients, or those suffering from other immune deficiency types (like transplant patients taking immunosuppressive anti rejection medications and especially AIDS), and are considered life threatening.

Chronic sinusitis on the other hand, can last for three months or longer, and is caused by various diseases sharing chronic inflammations of sinuses as the primary and common symptom. The symptoms may include facial pain, nasal congestion, random headaches, an increasing asthma, nighttime coughing, general malaise, a “facial fullness” feeling or a certain tightness that seems to get worse whenever you bend over, a thick greenish or yellowish discharge, halitosis, and aching teeth. While each symptom may have other multiple possible causes, patients should consider each carefully and investigate them well. It must be noted that fever is never a feature of a chronic paranasal sinus infection, unless the infection will lead to other complications. Chronic sinusitis oftentimes leads to anosmia (a condition where your sense of smell is gradually reduced).

The human brain’s obvious proximity to sinuses is considered a very dangerous complication of the sinusitis condition, especially in cases where the sphenoid and frontal sinuses have become involved. This may also lead to an anaerobic bacteria invasion into the brain through blood vessels or bones. Patients will have to contemplate about meningitis, abscesses and certain life-threatening conditions. In more extreme cases, patients may experience random headaches, mild changes in their personalities, visual problems, altered consciousness, coma, seizures, and in rare cases, death.

Sinus infections spread around through direct extensions and into surrounding close quarters, or through anastomising veins. Diagnosing general complications may be assisted by taking note of any local dull pain and tenderness, which is confirmed through nuclear isotope and CT scanning. Treatment parameters include both performing surgical drainage and administering antimicrobial therapy. The option of surgical debridement is not required anymore after having gone through extended courses of the therapy. The administration of antibiotics should take place not more than six weeks. Patients at this time must be carefully monitored for possible intracranial complications.

The causes of paranasal sinus infection include certain allergies, having small sinus ostia (concha bullosa), abnormalities around the nose structure (deviated septum), nasal polyps, and any prior sinusitis bouts. This becomes so since each of the instances may have triggered increased inflammation throughout the sinus mucosa, further affecting the nasal passageways along the way. The cystic fibrosis gene, though research is still looking at the possibilities is also considered as another serious cause of the infection.

Official studies are also looking at the possibility that second hand smoke exposure may have had a hand with chronic rhinosinusitis.

Another angle on how chronic sinusitis can be triggered may be attributed to maxillary sinuses situated around the human cheekbones. Infections and the eventual inflammation are known to be common around such areas compared to the usual paranasal sinuses. The drainage of the mucous secretions coming from the maxillary sinus all the way to the nasal cavity is unfortunately not very efficient, thus contributing to the infection as well.

The best way to guard against paranasal sinus infection is always the preventive approach. Your best action would be to prevent it from attacking in the first place rather than suffering and then recovering from the severity of the infection. Aside from being a medical concern affecting anyone anywhere, sinusitis will always affect productivity and performance whenever left untreated. Try to look inside yourself and eliminate certain contributing habits just to keep sinusitis out of the way. It would also help to identify some food and environment types that would only worsen your sinusitis condition. Keeping your guard against them always works.

Increasing your fluid intake, especially water is also one good way of preventing paranasal sinus infection from troubling you anytime, as it also helps in the functioning of our own immune system. Keep your surroundings clean at all times. Environmental pollution and contaminated air are never associated with anything good in this world; exposure alone will only irritate your nasal passages, thus aggravating your sinusitis.

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