Acute sinusitis develops suddenly and is usually caused by bacteria or a virus, such as a cold. The symptoms include facial pain or pressure, nasal congestion, discolored sinus discharge, headaches, and other symptoms of sinusitis. It typically lasts 4 weeks or less, and by the first week, it might start improving on its own. When caused by bacteria, acute sinusitis often responds well to antibiotics.
Caused by an allergic reaction, allergic rhinitis gets triggered by pollen, pet dander, mold, dust mites, smoke and other allergens. It can seem like a cold, with symptoms that include sneezing, a clear runny nose, watery eyes and a cough (caused by post nasal drip). If you or someone you know gets seasonal allergy flare-ups, its medical name is allergic rhinitis.
Physicians will often treat sinusitis with antibiotics. When the inflammation is due to bacteria or other microorganisms, antibiotics can prove effective. However, it’s important to note that many common colds are viral in nature and will resolve within 7-10 days without the use of antibiotics. Over-prescribing antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance. While chronic sinusitis may be treated with antibiotics, it will only prove effective if there is a bacterial element.
Antihistamines tend to dry out the lining of the nose and thicken mucus. If sinus sufferers also have allergies, physicians will prescribe antihistamines such as Claritin, Allergra, Zyrtec or Benadryl and/or allergy shots to control the inflammation that results from allergies.
Balloon Sinus Dilation
A minimally invasive sinus procedure, balloon sinus dilation can be performed in the office or the operating room by an ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeon. The ENT inserts a small balloon catheter into the sinuses and expands it to open the sinus pathways.
When sinusitis symptoms last 12 weeks or longer, the condition is considered chronic sinusitis. The symptoms include facial pain or pressure, nasal congestion, a reduced or lost sense of smell and taste, headaches, post nasal drip and more. Treating chronic sinusitis can be challenging, and can involve medical therapy with antibiotics, intranasal steroids, oral steroids and decongestants. When medical therapy doesn’t work, sufferers typically seek sinus surgery or balloon sinus dilation. People suffering from chronic sinusitis should seek medical help from an ENT.
Chronic Rhinosinusitis (CRS)
The terms chronic rhinosinusitis and chronic sinusitis are used interchangeably. They both refer to sinusitis symptoms lasting 12 weeks or longer. People with CRS should seek medical help from an ENT.
Corticosteroid Nasal Sprays
Also called intranasal steroids, corticosteroid nasal sprays can help to reduce swelling and mucus in the nose and sinuses. They are not the same as fast-acting nasal sprays, which are not intended for long-term use. Corticosteroid nasal sprays can take a day or several days (or longer) to reduce the symptoms. Commonly prescribed nasal sprays are Flonase (fluticasone propionate), Nasonex (mometasonefuroate), and Rhinocort (budesonide). While nasal sprays are widely prescribed for chronic sinusitis, they are actually indicated for rhinitis or inflammation of the nose.
An acronym for computerized tomography, a CT scan provides greater detail than a regular X-ray. It does this by combining multiple X-ray images from a variety of angles. These are processed by a computer to produce cross-sectional views of an area and to show more detailed views of the bones, blood vessels and soft tissues. CT scans are also called CAT Scans.
Decongestants shrink blood vessels and tissues to reduce swelling and decrease mucus production. Common decongestants include Afrin (oxymetazoline) and Sudafed (pseudoephedrine). Physicians typically recommend patients don’t use decongestants for more than three days as this can lead to dependence and/or rebound stuffiness.
The bone and cartilage that divide the nasal cavity of the nose is called the nasal septum. When it is crooked or significantly off center ─ or deviated ─ it’s called a deviated septum. A person is either born with a deviated septum or develops it after an injury or trauma to the nose. The condition can make breathing difficult, and can cause congestion and recurrent sinus infections. Sometimes, the symptoms can be relieved by medications. When medications don’t provide sufficient relief, patients sometimes turn to surgery to correct the deviation.
An endoscope is a small camera that allows healthcare professionals to look into a body cavity or organ. It is a thin tube with a light and a lens that transmits images. The tube is either flexible or rigid, depending on the procedure. The endoscope gets inserted through a small incision in the body or a natural opening, such as a nostril or the mouth.
Endoscopic Sinus Surgery
One of the most common procedures to help chronic sinusitis; this surgery is performed by an ENT in the comfort of an office or in a hospital setting under general anesthetic. The ENT inserts a small, lighted camera (an endoscope) into the sinuses to identify the cause(s) of inflammation. Small tools are then used to remove any blockages and to open the sinuses.
ENT is the acronym for an ear, nose and throat physician. Also known as an otolaryngologist (pronounced oh-toe-lair-in-goll-oh-jist), an ENT specializes in the diagnosis, surgery, medical treatment and management of disorders in the ear, nose, throat, as well as disorders relating to them in the head and neck. ENTs treat sinus, hearing, balance and communication disorders.
One of the four sinuses, the ethmoid sinus is located between the eyes, behind the bridge of the nose. It is a collection of small air cavities with thin walls that make the bone seem spongy. The ethmoid sinus is barely present at birth, but typically develops by the age of two.
One of the four sinuses, the frontal sinus is the air-filled cavity located behind the eyebrows. The frontal sinus is not developed at birth, but is well developed by seven or eight years, and reaches full development after puberty.
Intranasal Steroids (INS)
Intranasal steroids, also called corticosteroid nasal sprays, are steroid nasal sprays that can help to reduce swelling and mucus in the nose and sinuses. They are not the same as fast-acting over-the-counter nasal sprays, which are not intended for long-term use. Instead, INS sprays can take a day or several days (or longer) to reduce the symptoms. Commonly prescribed intranasal steroids are Flonase (fluticasone propionate), Nasonex (mometasonefuroate), and Rhinocort (budesonide). While intranasal steroids are widely prescribed for chronic sinusitis, they are actually indicated for rhinitis or inflammation of the nose.
The maxillary is the largest of the four sinuses. It is an air-filled cavity located under each eye behind the cheeks.
A mucous membrane is the moist lining of the nose, mouth, throat and other organs that produces slippery mucus. Mucus is important for lubricating and for trapping germs and allergens to remove them from the body. When people become sick, experience allergies, or become affected by other triggers, the mucous membrane will increase mucus production.
Nasal polyps are soft, non-cancerous growths that form on the lining of the nasal passages (mucosa) or sinuses as a result of hyperactive immune response. They might not cause symptoms or discomfort, but if they become large, they can block the sinuses and prevent normal drainage. This can cause mucus to build up and lead to infections. Nasal polyps can also contribute to chronic sinusitis. Treatments for nasal polyps include medications and surgery. Even with surgery, however, the nasal polyps can return.
Over-The-Counter (OTC) Sinusitis Medication
As the name implies, OTC sinusitis medications are remedies sold over the counter, so they don’t require a prescription. They include saline-based remedies and decongestants.
The mucus in the nose and throat play an important role in keeping the areas moist and in removing bacteria and foreign bodies that can cause allergies and infections. Typically, this mucus gets swallowed without notice. Sometimes, the amount of mucus increases, builds up or thickens due to congestion, sinus infections, colds, flu, allergies or hormonal changes. When this mucus drains down the back of the throat, it’s called postnasal drip. Postnasal drip can cause coughing, sore throats and problems swallowing.
PROPEL Sinus Stent
PROPEL® is a drug-releasing, dissolvable technology that ENTs can use after endoscopic sinus surgery to prop open the sinus while it heals. It is used instead of packing the sinus following sinus surgery. The spring-like device delivers an anti-inflammatory medication directly to the affected tissue to reduce inflammation and scarring. After about 30 to 45 days, it dissolves.
Saline Nasal Irrigation or Saline Rinse
People use saline nasal irrigation to cleanse the nose and sinuses of mucus and small particles, bacteria and viruses. This can be helpful to reduce symptoms of allergies and sinus infections. Healthcare practitioners often recommend saline nasal irrigation to provide relief from sinusitis symptoms, and to assist with healing after sinus surgery.
When inflammation in the sinus cavities prevents air and mucus from flowing naturally, the sinuses become blocked. Pressure changes within the sinus cavities can cause a sinus headache, which can include pain and pressure in the forehead, cheeks and brows.
The terms sinus infection and sinusitis are often used interchangeably. A sinus infection in the sinuses and nasal passages is typically caused by a cold or bacteria. It often responds well to antibiotic therapy.
The sinus lining is the tissue that lines the sinuses. It is covered with tiny hairs called cilia. The sinus lining produces mucus, which keeps the sinuses moist and traps germs, dust and other particulates. The cilia work to capture and “sweep” the foreign bodies into the mucus, so they can be removed (by sneezing, blowing the nose or draining down the throat). With chronic sinusitis, the sinus lining becomes inflamed and thickened.
Sinus Ostia (or ostium, singular)
The sinus ostia are the openings that allow air into the sinuses. They tend to be small, tight openings. When an ostium becomes blocked, airflow and drainage stop; air can’t get into the sinus and mucus can’t get out. This causes fluid build-up.
When a person suffers from sinusitis (acute or chronic), the sinus inflammation, mucus build-up and inability to circulate air can result in sinus pressure in the face or head. Changing altitudes ─ such as flying, driving up a mountain or scuba diving ─ can increase this pressure and create pain.
A surgical procedure performed by an ENT to treat chronic sinusitis. Sinus surgery is typically recommended if medical therapy has failed to address chronic sinusitis symptoms. It is performed to open up the sinuses, remove diseased tissue and bone and improve air flow and drainage. Sinus surgery also allows for easier access to deliver topical therapy to inflamed tissue after surgery.
Sinusitis is the inflammation of the sinus membranes. It can be acute, coming on suddenly from bacteria or a cold and lasting 4 weeks or less, or it can be chronic sinusitis, lasting for more than 12 weeks. The symptoms of sinusitis range from annoying to painful. Sinusitis will often clear up on its own, and will often respond to antibiotics. Chronic sinusitis will not clear up on its own, and requires proper diagnosis and treatment.
Symptoms for Sinusitis
Sinusitis has a wide range of symptoms. They include facial pain or pressure, facial tenderness or swelling, runny nose, discolored mucus, teeth or jaw pain, fatigue, post nasal drip, bad breath and depression.
One of the four pairs of sinuses, the sphenoid sinus is located in the middle of the skull, behind the nasal cavity.