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What Causes Sinus Infections? Ask the Austin, TX ENT

What Causes Sinus Infections?

Today, we’re diving into the world of sinus infections. You’ve probably heard of them or even experienced them, but let’s get a clearer picture of what they really are, what causes them, and answer some common questions.

What Exactly Causes Sinus Infections?

Sinus infections, medically known as sinusitis, occur when your sinuses get inflamed and filled up with fluid. Think of your sinuses as air pockets in your face. When they’re healthy, they’re empty and air-filled. But when they get blocked, that’s when problems start. Here are some common causes:

  • Colds: This is the most typical starting point. A cold can block your sinuses, leading to an infection.
  • Allergies: Seasonal allergies can inflame your sinuses, making them ripe for infection.
  • Irritants: Smoke, pollution, and even strong smells can trigger sinus issues.
  • Structural Issues: Some people have nasal polyps or a deviated septum which makes them more prone to sinus infections.

The Bacterial Culprits Behind Sinus Infections

When it comes to bacteria, there are a few usual suspects that cause sinus infections. The most common ones are:

  • Streptococcus Pneumoniae: This is a major cause of pneumonia, but it also loves to cause sinusitis.
  • Haemophilus Influenzae: Despite its name, it’s not the same as the flu virus. It’s a bacteria that often leads to sinus infections.
  • Moraxella Catarrhalis: Less common, but still a significant player in sinus infections.

These bacteria thrive in the fluid-filled, blocked sinuses, leading to infection.

Can You Catch a Sinus Infection From Someone Else?

Here’s some reassuring news: sinus infections themselves aren’t contagious. That means you can’t catch a sinus infection like you would a cold or the flu. However, the colds that often lead to sinus infections are contagious. So, it’s important to practice good hygiene like washing hands regularly to prevent the spread of colds.

Duration of Sinus Infections: How Long Do They Last?

Understanding the duration of sinus infections is important. They generally come in two forms:

  • Acute Sinus Infections: These are the more common type. They typically last for about 10 days to 2 weeks. With proper care and treatment, you can expect to recover fully.
  • Chronic Sinus Infections: These are more stubborn and last much longer, often more than 12 weeks. Chronic sinusitis may require more complex treatment, including prescription medication or even surgery in severe cases.

Key Takeaways

  1. Sinus infections are usually caused by blocked sinuses due to colds, allergies, irritants, or structural nasal problems.
  2. Common bacteria responsible include Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae.
  3. Sinus infections aren’t contagious, but the colds leading to them can be.
  4. They can be acute or chronic, with varying durations.

Remember: While this guide offers a comprehensive overview, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional for a personalized diagnosis and treatment plan. Sinus infections can be more than just a nuisance, so proper medical advice is key to your health and well-being.

Dr. Brown is certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology and specializes in chronic sinusitis, nasal obstruction, obstructive sleep apnea, and pediatric otolaryngology.

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