It is estimated that as much as 15% of adults will experience sinusitis throughout their lifetime, accounting for as many as 15 million people in the United States alone. Sometimes, people may wrongfully assume they have sinusitis, when in reality it may just be from symptoms of a bad cold.
Since this occurrence is fairly common, it is important to set the record straight, and be able to recognize real sinusitis.
What Is Sinusitis?
In the simplest terms, Sinusitis is the name given to the condition during which the sinuses become inflamed. You may have probably heard it being called a sinus infection, and that is totally acceptable as well.
Sinusitis in most cases is just very uncomfortable, and usually clears up without need for further intervention. However, there are exceptions to this rule, so it is important that you familiarize yourself with the possible symptoms as well.
Are There Different Types Of Sinusitis?
There are two distinct “categories” of sinusitis, based on how long symptoms persist. They are:
- Acute Sinusitis- this type of sinusitis will normally resolve on its own within 10 days or so, but may require medical intervention and can last up to 12 weeks.
- Chronic Sinusitis- sinusitis is categorized as being chronic if symptoms are consistent well beyond 12 weeks, and may be present for eve years and decades.
The Causes Of Sinusitis
For the most part, sinusitis is cause by pathogenic organisms that have replicated and are now causing an infection. However, it can also be caused by other factors as well. The causes can include:
- Viruses- viral sinusitis is the most common form, and is usually acute and self-limiting. Symptoms normally clear up in about 10 days’ time.
- Bacterial- bacterial sinus infections are far more serious and require medical attention. Left unchecked, bacteria replicate fast and can lead to far greater complications.
- Fungal- fungal sinusitis is not extremely common, but does still occur in persons, especially those that are immune compromised.
- Growth Of Nasal Polyps- these are harmless growths that occur in the sinuses that result in excessive mucus production.
Symptoms of Sinusitis
Though at first glance you might expect the only symptom of sinusitis to be runny nose, there are in fact many other manifestations of the infection. Be sure to keep an eye out for the following:
- Foul Breath (halitosis) – the trachea is connected to both the nasal passage and throat, and explains why mucus often ends up in our mouth, and not only our nostrils. Under an active infection, mucus appears green or yellow, and is offensive to smell. This is because of the bacterial colonies present in mucus, which then make themselves comfortable in our mouth.
- Nasal Congestion- nasal congestion is one of the trademark symptoms of sinusitis, and along with running nose can usually be confused with a cold or flu. When congestion occurs with other symptoms, however, it is usually indicative of sinusitis.
- Fever- a fever is a state of increased body temperature, usually as a result of the immune system trying to actively handle a threat. In this case, fever would likely be caused by a pathogen. Cool water compress or using anti-pyretic medication are both effective means to relieve fever if discomfort is great.
- Pain- this pain is usually localized at the sinuses themselves, normally the lower forehead (just above the eyebrows) or behind the nose and eyes. This pain is often the result of inflammatory processes in the sinuses. Pain may also be felt as dental discomfort.
- Discolored Nasal Discharge- though this does not always happen, when it does it is a definitive indicator that a sinus infection is active. Nasal discharge usually has a yellowish-green color.
Treatment Of Sinusitis
The exact treatment you employ will depend on how bad your infection is, the duration of the illness and also needs to consider how frequently it has been occurring. Based on the history obtained at this point, treatment can include:
These are standard treatment for people with bacterial sinusitis, or those whose immune systems are compromised. Antibiotic therapy can last anywhere from 3 days to 28 days, but depends on the articular antibiotic used and how bad the infection is. Due to antibiotic resistance, they should only be used when absolutely needed- in sinusitis lasting more than 10 days and preferably after confirmation of bacterial strain.
2. Nasal Decongestants
Nasal decongestants are not a cure for sinusitis, but still offer significant symptomatic relief in persons with acute sinusitis. Nasal decongestants work by reducing dilation of the blood vessels within the nasal cavity, and allowing mucus to drain.
3. Inhaled Corticosteroid Sprays
These sprays are not the typical ones used for asthma, as they need to work in the nasal cavity itself. Corticosteroid nasal sprays offer relief from the inflammation associated with sinusitis, and can thin mucus and allow easy removal.
Surgery is best employed in cases of chronic sinusitis, or those caused by nasal polyps or deformities. The extent of the surgery also varies greatly, depending on how bad the infection is to begin with. Surgery is the best cure for recurrent chronic sinusitis.
4. Nasal irrigation
Nasal irrigation is best reserved for milder cases of sinusitis, or as maintenance to flush the sinuses after recovering from an acute infection. It is often done by using lukewarm isotonic saline solution, and is administered via a neti pot. The goal is to gently flush mucus out of the sinuses.
5. Steam Inhalation
Steam inhalation has been used for centuries, and is a safe way to clear sinuses of mucus and relieve inflammation. Aromatic coils such as peppermint or eucalyptus may be added for extra anti-inflammatory action. The relief obtained from Steam inhalation is short lived, but its safety means that you can employ its use multiple times throughout the day.
6. Alternative Remedies
There are dozens of alternative remedies that may offer you support in treating sinusitis, ranging from grape seed extract to apple cider vinegar and turmeric. The one thing in common with most of these remedies is the fact that they thin mucus and aid its removal, while some others attempt to boost the abilities of the immune system
A sinus infection is not often dangerous, but rather uncomfortable and embarrassing. Many cases resolve on their own in about 10 days’ time, but if you notice that symptoms are not improving, it is imperative you go to your physician. Any attempt to cure sinusitis will at its core seek to remove the offending pathogen (if any) and facilitate clearing mucus out of the sinuses.