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What is Sinusitis? Ask the ENT

What is Sinusitis?

Sinusitis is a condition that affects the sinuses – the air-filled spaces in the face and forehead. When the sinuses become inflamed and swollen, it can cause discomfort and a range of symptoms. Sinusitis is a common condition that affects millions of people each year.

There are several types of sinusitis, including acute sinusitis, chronic sinusitis, and recurrent sinusitis. Acute sinusitis is a short-term condition that usually lasts up to four weeks. Chronic sinusitis, on the other hand, lasts longer than 12 weeks, while recurrent sinusitis is when a person experiences several episodes of acute sinusitis throughout the year.

Symptoms of Sinusitis

The symptoms of sinusitis can vary from person to person, but some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Facial pain or pressure
  • Headache
  • Nasal congestion or discharge
  • Difficulty breathing through the nose
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Fever

Sinusitis is typically caused by a viral or bacterial infection, although allergies and other factors such as a deviated septum, nasal polyps, or tooth infections can also contribute to the condition. Risk factors for developing sinusitis include a weakened immune system, smoking, and exposure to pollutants or allergens.

Treatment for Sinusitis

Treatment for sinusitis often involves managing the symptoms. Over-the-counter decongestants, pain relievers, and nasal saline sprays can help relieve congestion and pain. Antibiotics may be prescribed if the sinusitis is caused by a bacterial infection.

In addition to medication, there are several home remedies that can help manage symptoms of sinusitis. Drinking plenty of fluids, using a humidifier, applying warm compresses to the face, and using saline nasal rinses can help relieve congestion and improve breathing.

There is surgical treatment available for those who do not adequately respond to medical therapy. Balloon sinuplasty is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that is used to treat chronic sinusitis. During the procedure, a small, flexible balloon catheter is inserted into the affected sinus cavity and then inflated, which helps to widen the sinus opening and allow for better drainage of mucus and other fluids. Unlike traditional sinus surgery, which involves cutting and removing tissue, balloon sinuplasty typically involves less pain, bleeding, and recovery time, and may be performed on an outpatient basis under local anesthesia.

Some patients with severe sinusitis may require more extensive traditional sinus surgery to create larger openings into the sinuses.

Diagnosis of Sinusitis

If you experience symptoms of sinusitis, it’s important to see an ENT specialist for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. In some cases, sinusitis can lead to complications such as the spread of infection to the eye or brain, so early treatment is essential to prevent further complications.

Preventing sinusitis can be difficult, but there are steps you can take to reduce your risk. These include avoiding exposure to pollutants and allergens, practicing good hygiene, and quitting smoking. If you have allergies, managing them with medication or allergen avoidance can also help prevent sinusitis.

In summary, sinusitis is a common condition that can cause discomfort and a range of symptoms. Treatment often involves managing symptoms with medication and home remedies, but it’s important to see a healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. With proper management and prevention, most people with sinusitis can recover and live symptom-free.

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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