Originally published for Oklahoma Otolaryngologist’s Association Dec. 2015
SINUSITIS: A Patient Education Guide
Do you have a hard time blowing your nose?
It may seem like an inconsequential question, but sinusitis is no laughing matter. Sinusitis, caused by the inflammation of the sinus cavities, is a common otolaryngological issue that affects approximately one in eight adults a year, leading to a significant decrease in their quality of life. If it is not identified and treated, it has the potential to become a serious medical issue.
But what is sinusitis, and how is it identified?
Sinusitis happens when the hollow spaces in the bones around your nose become inflamed. These spaces, known as the sinuses, are responsible for producing the mucus that clears out your nasal cavities. During those times when your immune system is compromised—such as when you have a cold—your sinuses can become infected by the virus or bacteria present in your nasal cavities, and swell shut. Sinus inflammation, traps the mucus inside, causing sinusitis.
When your sinuses become inflamed and obstructed, a number of things can happen. You might begin to experience a blocked-up stuffy nose that never seems to go away. You might begin to feel sensitive in the area around your eyes, nose, or forehead. It might turn into pain or pressure, where the feeling won’t go away. You might begin to suffer from post-nasal drip, where the mucus that was supposed to go to your nasal cavities is instead redirected backwards towards your throat. These symptoms are caused by an overabundance of mucus in your sinuses that can’t get out, combined with the inflammation of the tissue inside. (Please refer to this link [www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/sinusitis/Pages/symptoms.aspx] for a more comprehensive overview of the symptoms of sinusitis.)
Sinusitis comes in two main forms, which are bacterial and viral. Though the two forms share many similar traits, it is important to distinguish between them, as the treatment that works for one will not necessarily affect the other. The key to identifying the two is timing: if you have a steady level of sickness and discomfort for around two weeks that doesn’t seem to be getting worse, it is most likely viral. However, if you show no signs of improvement after two weeks, or if your symptoms get worse after the other aspects of your disease have gone away, it is possible that you’ve contracted bacterial sinusitis.
Normally, the illnesses that are associated with sinusitis resolve without much intervention. However, there are many situations in which the symptoms of sinusitis persist long after the inciting disease has gone away. They can be caused by many things, including sinus allergies and sinus infections. Acute sinusitis, which is the term for sinusitis where the symptoms last around a month, is most common. Chronic sinusitis, where the symptoms persist for over three months, is cause to visit your otolaryngology specialist.
Treatment for sinusitis varies based on the type of sinusitis present in your system. If bacterial sinusitis is present, addressing the cause of your symptoms might be as easy as taking a suite of antibiotics. However, as most (around 98%) of sinusitis is viral, the options available to you are not quite as direct, and should be discussed with your ENT specialist.
Even in the most drastic cases of sinusitis, you have options. If you have any concerns about your Ear, Nose, or Throat health, please don’t hesitate to [contact us.] [link] Oklahoma Otolaryngologists Association is here to help you.