Sinusitis or a sinus infection can be acute or chronic. Acute sinusitis usually resolves within a couple of days, while chronic sinusitis can last for more than 8 weeks.
Sinuses are small, air-filled spaces, which can be found within the bones of the skull and the face. There are several paranasal sinuses, which are broadly classified into four sub-groups. These sub groups are known as, maxillary sinuses, frontal sinuses, ethmoid sinuses, and sphenoid sinuses. Sinusitis refers to the inflammation of these paranasal sinuses. Sinusitis can be acute or chronic. An acute infection of the sinuses develops quickly and lasts for a short duration, usually for a week or two (less than 4 weeks). On the other hand, chronic sinusitis can persist for more than 8 weeks.
What Causes Acute Sinusitis?
More commonly, it is caused by a cold or viral infection. Occasionally, the causative agent can be bacteria. Bacteria can cause upper respiratory infections, which can eventually affect the sinuses. Rarely, sinusitis can be caused by fungal infections as well.
It has been observed that certain factors can put an individual at an increased risk of developing sinusitis. Such factors include, structural abnormalities of the sinuses, such as deviated septum, nasal bone spur, small sinus ostia, and nasal polyps. Apart from these, allergies, hay fever or allergic rhinitis, asthma, a tooth infection, cystic fibrosis, gastroesophageal reflux disease, tumors in the nose, a weakened immune system, and smoking are some other factors that can increase the risk of sinusitis.
Signs and Symptoms
Sinusitis, both acute and chronic, can produce a number of symptoms, of which the most common symptoms are, nasal congestion, and pain and tenderness over the infected sinus. Frontal sinusitis can produce pain across the forehead, while maxillary sinusitis causes pain and tenderness over the cheeks, that can radiate to the palate and the upper teeth.
An infection of the ethmoid sinuses usually produces pain around the eyes, and on the bridge of the nose. On the other hand, sphenoid sinusitis can cause pain across the forehead, at the back and top of the head, at the temples, and behind the eyes. Apart from these, one can also experience all or a few of the following signs and symptoms:
- Nasal congestion, which can cause difficulty in breathing through the nose
- Thick, yellow or greenish nasal discharge
- Runny nose
- Sinus headache
- Pressure and pain in the face
- Post nasal drip
- Sore throat
- Cough and sneezing
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Ear pain
- Halitosis or bad breath
Diagnosis and Treatment
Physicians usually diagnose sinusitis by evaluating the symptoms, along with performing certain diagnostic tests, like nasal endoscopy, CT and MRI scan, and nasal culture. The allergy test is carried out to find out whether an allergy is responsible for producing the symptoms, like nasal congestion and postnasal drip.
Saline nasal sprays and decongestant sprays are usually used for treating an episode of sinusitis. If the symptoms do not improve, then corticosteroids can be prescribed to reduce the inflammation of the sinuses. Antibiotics are generally used for treating bacterial sinus infections. However, acute sinusitis caused by bacteria usually resolves within a few days without antibiotics. Antibiotics are usually considered for severe and recurrent sinus infections.
Sinusitis can also be treated with some simple home remedies, especially if it is not severe in nature.
- Drinking plenty of fluid is perhaps the simplest and the most convenient way to clear up the blocked sinuses. Fluid can help thin the mucus, and thereby promote its drainage.
- Steam inhalation is another effective home remedy for sinusitis and nasal congestion.
- You can use a warm and damp towel to apply heat on your face and the sinuses to get relief from the pain. This would also help reduce the nasal congestion.
- Try irrigating your nose with saline water, which would help drain out the mucus and clear the nasal passage.
- Drink herbal tea made with herbs like sage, ginger, fenugreek, fennel, and anise.
- Eating spicy food that contain cayenne pepper can also promote the drainage of mucus from the sinuses and nasal passage.
- Use a humidifier in order to prevent the sinuses and the nasal passage from drying out. This can help prevent the irritation of the sinuses caused by dry air.
These are a few home remedies that can help relieve the symptoms of sinusitis. If the symptoms do not improve with these home remedies, talk to your physician regarding the use of appropriate medications. Acute sinusitis usually does not cause any serious complications, though sometimes one can develop chronic sinusitis from it. Rarely, the infection can spread from the sinuses to the bones, brain, and the blood. Usually, children are more susceptible to such complications than their adult counterparts. To avoid the complications associated with sinusitis, be sure to seek medical attention if its symptoms last for several days or worsen with time.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.