Every year in the United States, it is estimated that 50 million people experience sinusitis.
The incidence appears to be steadily increasing and this is believed to be associated with a number of factors, such as urban sprawl, increased air pollution, and antibiotic resistance.
Since this is a relatively common issue, it is important for patients to know the basic facts.
A number of conditions and factors might contribute to sinusitis. Common causes include:
- Nasal polyps, which are tissue growths that may block the sinuses or nasal passages
- Respiratory tract infections, including those that are viral, fungal or bacterial
- Hay fever and other allergies since they may block the sinuses
- Deviated nasal septum since it may block or restrict the nasal passages
- Certain other medical conditions, such as gastroesophageal reflux, immune diseases, cystic fibrosis, and HIV
This condition may cause a number of symptoms, but the most common are considered to be:
- Nasal congestion, fullness, and obstruction which may make breathing difficult
- Discolored postnasal or nasal discharge of varying thickness and colors
- Facial pressure, pain, and fullness
- Decreased sense of smell
In addition to the most common symptoms, the following are also possible:
- Bad breath
- Ear pressure
- Tooth pain
- Sore throat
There are different types of sinusitis, including acute and chronic. The acute type generally resolves within four weeks. The chronic type typically lasts for approximately four to 12 weeks but may last longer. There is also the recurrent type, and this is diagnosed when patients have at least four instances of bacterial sinusitis per year.
A physical examination, looking at the patient’s medical history and exploring their symptoms is often sufficient to diagnose the acute form of sinusitis. If the patient is being evaluated for the chronic type, the following tests may also be done:
- Nasal endoscopy to look into the sinuses
- Sinus and nasal cultures to look for a cause
- Imaging studies to look at the nasal area and sinuses
- Allergy testing if certain allergies are suspected
The goal of treatment is to calm the underlying cause, encourage nasal passage draining, decrease sinus inflammation, and reduce how many incidences of sinusitis a patient has. For acute cases, nasal irrigation and sprays to alleviate congestion and reduce inflammation may be sufficient. Antibiotics or antifungal medications may be administered if warranted.
In chronic cases, doctors often look for an underlying cause and treat that. For example, if allergies are to blame, allergy medications might be prescribed. Nasal irrigation and sprays might also be helpful for chronic cases, as well as antibiotics or antifungal medications if necessary. The doctor might also prescribe a steroid medication to treat the associated inflammation.
Those who suspect that they may have sinusitis should consult their doctor. This ensures that they get an accurate diagnosis so that the proper treatment can be administered.