Sinusitis is a medical condition in which the paranasal sinuses become inflamed. It is a very common illness—in the United States alone, approximately 24 million cases are reported yearly. However, in most cases, this illness subsides in a few days’ time. It can be caused by several factors, including allergies and infections.
Sinusitis is classified according to duration and location. By duration, the condition is described as either acute or chronic. Acute sinusitis is often preceded by a respiratory tract infection which is either viral or bacterial in origin—the former is reported to be more common though. Also, viral sinusitis often lasts for seven to ten days; in contrast, bacterial sinusitis lasts for a much longer period of time. Acute cases of sinusitis can also arise from fungal invasions brought about by pre-existing medical complications, such as diabetes and AIDS. Harsh chemicals such as chlorine fumes and cigarette smoke can also trigger a nasal inflammation.
Chronic sinusitis, on the other hand, can last for extended periods of time. Sinusitis can be classified as chronic if the condition persists for more than three months. In such cases, it might be that sinusitis is a symptom of a more serious chronic disease. Chronic sinusitis infection symptoms include the following: facial pain, headache, dizziness, increased frequency of coughing at night, yellowish or greenish discharge from the nasal cavities, and halitosis (foul breath). In most cases, chronic sinusitis can result to a reduced sense of smell—a condition known as anosmia.
Chronic sinusitis is further subdivided into two types: cases with polyps and cases with no polyps. For the former, it is not yet clear to medical experts what factors contribute to its development, although some of them believe that contributing factors possibly include allergies, dust and pollution from one’s environment, bacterial infections, and fungal invasions. A deviated septum is also pointed out as one of the potential causes of this kind of condition.
- in the cheek area (maxillary), which is experienced as headaches and toothaches
- above the eyes (frontal), which is experienced as headache
- between or behind the eyes (ethmoid), which is also responsible for headaches and
- at the top of the head (sphenoid).
Theorists posit that this condition is caused by a spectrum of respiratory disorders. Also, it is believed that sinusitis is closely related to asthma or any other condition that involves the inflammation of the air passageway, such as coughs.
In general, the most common among all sinusitis infection symptoms are facial pains and headaches. The pain is often localized to the sinus involved, therefore affecting only one side of the head. But once it has progressed into something more serious, the pain could extend to both sides. Sinusitis infection symptoms also include a thick nasal discharge (as was mentioned previously) which may contain pus or blood. Toothache is also a very common experience.
If not addressed immediately, sinusitis infection symptoms can cause further complications. It can affect the eye socket, which can consequently lead to the degeneration or permanent loss of eyesight. It can also cause the infection of facial bones—a condition known as Pott’s puffy tumor. In addition to that, sinusitis infection symptoms can also cause damages in hearing, which is experienced as a feeling of heaviness in the head.
In a worst case scenario, the invading bacteria that causes the aforementioned sinusitis infection symptoms can grow and spread to other parts of the body, triggering life-threatening conditions such as meningitis, or the inflammation of the meninges which are membranes that protect the vital parts of the nervous system such as the brain and the spinal cord. If this condition is left unattended, it can possibly lead to coma and subsequent death. In less serious cases, sinusitis infection symptoms can also lead to abscesses (accumulation of pus due to infection), altered mental states, and shifts in personality.
Diagnosing this condition is done by determining if there are occurrences of dull pain or pressure in the head or facial region. After these tests, the patient might then be required to undergo a CT scan. Treatment will depend on whatever is causing the disease.
In milder cases, nasal irrigation (otherwise known as nasal douche) is recommended for patients. It works by flushing out of the excess mucus from the nose to prevent congestion. It makes use of a saline solution to moisturize the nasal cavity, making it easier to remove the materials that have been encrusted in the mucus lining. It has been proven effective through the years and very few side effects have been reported by those who have used it. It is, in other words, very safe and effective.
Other relatively safe methods employed by those who want to relieve themselves from the discomfort associated with sinusitis include the application of warm, moist cloth on areas affected by the sinusitis infection symptoms; drinking significant amounts of fluids to make the mucus thinner; and inhaling steam.
However, for those people whose conditions were induced by viral infections, the intake of antibiotics is sometimes necessitated, especially if the condition still persists after ten days. Amoxicillin is often recommended for the first round of treatments. Depending on the results, this antibiotic may or may not be supplemented with other types of antibiotics.
For severe cases, a surgical operation is recommended as a last resort. Most doctors advise their patients to undergo a surgical procedure if and only if other treatments did not work out for them (or at least did not do much to relieve the existing sinusitis infection symptoms). One example of such procedure is called the washout, which involves puncturing the sinus to let the excess mucus out. However, studies show that the effects gained from this procedure is not significantly different from effects that a person gets from taking antibiotics. Another is the functional endoscopic sinus surgery in which natural openings are utilized instead of incising the facial area/oral cavity.