Sinus Infection & Sinusitis
Sinusitis occurs when viruses or bacteria infect the sinus cavities, usually due to blockage of the small drainage pathways that lead to the nasal passages. This causes an inflammation of the sinuses, which stops proper drainage. Symptoms include facial pain, headaches, nasal drainage, cough, postnasal drip, bad breath, upper jaw pain, sore throat, sensitive eyes, swelling of the eyelids, general fatigue, and fever.Even after treatment of a sinus infection, inflammation can persist. Chronic sinusitis refers to inflammation of the sinuses that continues for at least a few weeks, but often continues for months or even years.
Chronic sinusitis affects approximately 35 million Americans each year, or 15% of the population. Sinusitis is more prevalent that arthritis or hypertension. Americans make 645,000 emergency department visits annually due to sinusitis. Chronic sinusitis resulted in approximately 13 to 18 million physician visits in 1994. The health impact of sinusitis on bodily pain and social functioning has been noted to be worse than that of congestive heart failure, angina, or back pain.
At The Nose and Sinus Center, physicians can do a fiberoptic evaluation of your nose and sinuses to pinpoint the problem, and can show you the specific problem on a video screen. Treatment options vary, and are personalized to your particular anatomy, history and the nature of your problem. Recent technology has made these treatments more effective, safer, and more comfortable than ever before.
To download our book chapter on “Symptoms of sinus disease – taking a closer look”, Click here
To download our book chapter on “Sinus anatomy and sinusitis overview”, Click here
To download our book chapter on “Diagnosing sinus disease – an overview”, Click here
To download our book chapter on “Medical management of sinus disease”, Click here
I thought sinusitis was an infection?
Sinus infection is only one of many causes of inflammation of the sinuses. Signs of infection include fever, green and foul-smelling nasal drainage, and facial pain. Infection should be treated with antibiotics. Sinusitis can also be caused by a several environmental, allergic, anatomical, systemic and drug-related causes. They can all contribute to a sinus infection, but do not necessarily mean that an infection (e.g., versus an inflammation) is present.
What causes the sinuses to malfunction?
When a river is dammed, water flow is slowed or halted and water gathers behind the dam. The water level rises and a reservoir forms. Similarly, if the sinus openings are blocked, a backup of mucus occurs. This can lead to a tepid swamp-like condition that leads to infection.
What can I do about recurrent infections?
We must find out why you get recurrent infections and treat this problem. Some causes are unavoidable. For instance, if you have small children in elementary school who bring home cold after cold, you will have to wait until they grow older! (Actually, even in this situation we can often help you with preventive medical treatment).
However, if you have sinus blockage predisposing you to infections, medical and/or surgical therapy can help.
Is it true that the common cold can lead to a bacterial sinus infection?
A cold is a viral infection that typically goes away in a few days. Many episodes of acute sinusitis follow the common cold. When fluid taken from the sinuses of patients with acute bacterial sinusitis have been studied, cold viruses have invariably been found.
Viral infections destroy the cilia of the mucous membranes, and approximately six weeks are required for regeneration. Many doctors therefore believe that this is a predisposing factor for a bacterial sinusitis super-infection, since these patients have decreased mucus flow, thick abnormal mucus, and osteomeatal complex blockage.
In addition to problems such as the common cold, allergens and non-allergic pollutants are significant triggers to sinusitis. Irritants such as cigarette smoke, perfume, toxic chemicals, and other pollutants remain a problem for many patients and cause blockage and lead to sinus infections.
As mentioned above, anatomic abnormalities can also predispose to acute sinusitis and sinus infections. These problems are typically easy to recognize and may be corrected surgically.
Are some people more predisposed than others to colds, and also to sinusitis/sinus infections?
Yes. If your nasal and sinus anatomy is particularly narrow, you are less able to tolerate the swelling of the nasal membrane lining that is caused by nasal irritants. Also, the nasal lining of some people is simply more sensitive than in others. For example, some people are very sensitive to cigarette smoke; their noses seem to “swell shut” almost immediately. Also, some people have severe allergies while others do not. These are two obvious examples, but the point is that the way each person’s nose reacts to the world around them is unique, and based on genetic factors. Depending upon your anatomy, and depending upon how your nose reacts to the world around you, you may be more or less susceptible to sinusitis and/or a sinus infection.