Sinusitis is infection or inflammation of the lining of the sinus cavities. These are hollow spaces in your cheeks and around your eyes. Sinus infections often follow a cold and cause pain and pressure in your head and face.
Sinusitis can be either acute (sudden) or chronic (long-term). With chronic sinusitis, the infection or inflammation does not completely go away for 12 weeks or more.
Sinusitis is the number one reported chronic condition in the United States, affecting an estimated 37 million Americans.
What causes sinusitis?
Sinusitis can be caused by three things:
The same viruses that cause the common cold cause most cases of sinusitis.
When the lining of the sinus cavities gets inflamed from a viral infection like a cold, it swells. This is viral sinusitis. The swelling can block the normal drainage of fluid from the sinuses into the nose and throat. If the fluid cannot drain and builds up over time, bacteria, or fungi (plural of fungus) may start to grow in it. These bacterial or fungal infections can cause more swelling and pain. They are more likely to last longer, get worse with time, and become chronic.
Nasal allergies or other problems that block the nasal passages and allow fluid to build up in the sinuses can also lead to sinusitis.
What are the symptoms?
The main symptoms of sinusitis are a runny or stuffy nose and pain and pressure in your head and face. You may also have a yellow or green drainage or drip from your nose or down the back of your throat (postnasal discharge). Where you feel the pain and tenderness depends on which sinus is affected.
Other common symptoms of sinusitis may include:
- Bad breath.
- Cough that produces mucus.
- Pain in your teeth.
- Reduced sense of taste or smell.
How is sinusitis treated?
Treatments will vary depending upon the severity of your sinusitis and whether it’s an acute or chronic condition. Saline nasal sprays and corticosteroids are useful for rinsing your nasal passages and relieving inflammation. Decongestants are a good short-term solution, but extended use can worsen the condition. Antibiotics are usually prescribed for bacterial infections.
Antihistamines, nasal steroid sprays, saline washes and oral steroids all provide long-term relief.
More permanent solutions such as immunotherapy (allergy shots) or surgery can bring relief to those suffering from chronic sinusitis.
There are several surgical sinus procedures available. These include:
Your doctor can advise which sinus surgery is best for you based upon your symptoms and unique condition.