by Kimberly Allen, RN
Sinusitis by definition is an inflammation of the tissue that lines your sinuses. Estimates are that at least 37 million Americans suffer form sinusitis at least once every year. Though there are some people that tend to suffer from multiple episodes of sinusitis like allergy sufferers, people with impaired immune systems as well as those that have structural abnormalities.
Sinusitis is caused by an infection that can be viral, bacterial, or rarely fungal in nature. Most sinusitis infections are caused by a virus and tend to occur after a cold. The sinuses become infected because something, for example excess mucous from a cold or allergies or a structural deformity, has blocked the sinuses, this allows them to fill with fluid and germs that then grow causing the infection. Sinusitis is not a contagious infection, it occurs because by chance your sinuses were contaminated by an infecting organism that was able to grow in your sinus tissue.
Sinusitis is usually divided into three major categories, acute, sub acute and chronic.
Acute sinusitis almost always develops after a viral upper respiratory infection. However, they can develop after a bacterial upper respiratory infection. Most cases of viral sinusitis last for a week to 10 days. Should your sinusitis not resolve with over the counter medications after 10 days you should consider that it may be a bacterial infection and need antibiotics. If your sinusitis persists after 10 days contact your Dr. Acute episodes of sinusitis can also be caused by a fungal infection. Sinusitis caused by a fungal infection can be life threatening and should be considered a medical emergency. People most at risk for fungal sinusitis are diabetics and people with immune deficiencies like HIV/AIDS.
Sub acute sinusitis is a sinus infection that lasts longer than a month but not longer than 3 months. This type can be cause by virus, bacteria, or fungus.
Chronic sinusitis lasts longer than 3 months. This type of sinusitis can be caused by a variety of different conditions that have chronic inflammation of the sinuses as a symptom. This type is also subdivided into those with polyps and those without. There has also been a combination of both aerobic as well as anaerobic bacteria found in chronic sinusitis. However, antibiotic treatment tends to provide only temporary relief in the inflammation.
The most common symptoms of sinusitis includes headaches with facial pressure, tenderness and pain. There is usually a cloudy or discolored nasal drainage as well as a sore throat and cough. Some people but not all also have a fever.
Treatment of sinus infections depends on the cause. Antibiotics are not going to help if it’s a viral infection as most are. For viral sinusitis your Dr may suggest using a saline nasal spray to rinse your nasal passages several times a day. There are also nasal sprays that contain corticosteroids like Flonase, that can prevent as well as treat the inflammation. There are also numerous over the counter decongestants that can help with the symptom relief. Also, over the counter pain relievers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help with the headache and facial pain. Antibiotics are only given if your infection is caused by bacteria.
There are a few things you can do to prevent sinusitis including avoid upper respiratory infections. By taking precautions to minimize your chances of developing an upper respiratory symptoms also reduces your risk of sinusitis.. Managing your allergies, controlling your allergy symptoms also reduces your risk of sinusitis. In the winter especially the air in most homes is dry due to heating so it’s important to use a humidifier. It’s also important to avoid being around cigarette smoke and other air pollutants.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.