Your face is loaded with holes. Kind of. Well actually, it has four hollow spots. These are your sinus cavities. Your sinuses help eliminate allergens and germs by aiding mucus discharge from your nose. Consequently, you breathe easier and you stay healthier.
This system functions really well most of the time. But your sinuses can sometimes become infected.
Sinus infections – what exactly are they?
When you have a sinus infection, these hollow spaces get inflamed and swollen. Stuffy nose, headaches, and other symptoms happen when this swelling blocks germs and mucus inside of the sinus cavities. Because they impede drainage, sinus infections can be pretty persistent.
For some people this chronic inflammation and swelling can prolong the misery for months and months. It’s a condition known as chronic sinusitis.
Chronic sinusitis – exactly what is it?
A standard, non-chronic sinus infection will resolve itself in a few days or so. In some instances, if the sinus infection is more unrelenting, it can last up to a month. That sounds rather annoying, but it isn’t quite a chronic sinus infection at this point.
Chronic sinusitis is typically classified as an infection that persists for 12 weeks or longer. And your sinus infection will hang around for the entirety of these 12 weeks. When it subsides and comes back that’s known as recurring sinusitis, which is a similar but distinct condition. Your symptoms will endure and feel constant even though they actually ebb and flow. This can lead to a substantial amount of misery (or, at the very least, impact your day-to-day living).
Chronic sinusitis risk factors
So is there a specific type of person that will be more susceptible to chronic sinusitis? As with any sickness, there’s a great deal of random variability here, but there are a few risk factors that can make you more susceptible to this condition. Those risk factors include:
- Mucus is unable to because of an irregular nasal structure such as a deviated septum.
- Airways that are frequently obstructed due to conditions like allergies, asthma, or cystic fibrosis.
- Nasal polyps.
- Repeated illness (whether due to bacteria or viruses).
This is just a partial list. But you can think about it like this: anything that increases swelling and or makes it difficult for mucus to drain in a normal will increase your risk of getting a chronic sinus infection at some point.
Diagnosing chronic sinusitis
So if you’re dealing with chronic sinusitis, how will we know for sure? Well, there are a few things we will do to be certain this is the condition you have:
- Sinus cultures: We might take a culture to find out what’s creating your infection. This can help identify whether the initial infection is viral or bacterial.
- Imaging tests and diagnostic procedures: In order to get a clear idea of what’s taking place in your sinuses, we may order an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan.
- Medical history and physical exam: Just as with any other diagnosis, a medical history and physical exam can provide a lot of information.
- Nasal endoscopy: In some situations, we may need to take a look inside your nostrils. This is done by a tiny camera known as an endoscope.
Not all treatments for a sinus infection will be correct for all types of infections. In other words, getting a correct diagnosis is critical to success.
Treating chronic sinus infections
Our initial approach will probably be rather conservative because of how prevalent sinus infections are. Frequently, recovering from the sickness simply needs a little help. Usually, the more intense and invasive treatments are saved for later when they’re really needed.
Most of these more conservative treatments are completed at home by the patient. Here are a few:
- Nasal irrigation and saline sprays: This will assist drainage and decrease dryness and irritation.
- Humidifiers and steam: Your symptoms can be relieved by trying not to breathe in dry air and a humidifier can be extremely helpful with that.
- Avoiding allergy triggers: You can get considerable relief from your infections by staying away from allergy and asthma triggers if they are causing a runny nose. If you have a cat allergy, for example, stay away from those feline friends.
We may prescribe some medications if these more conservative solutions aren’t working. Some of those medications might include the following:
- Antibiotics: This will only help when your sinus infection is a consequence of a bacteria. It won’t work with viruses, unfortunately. We may order a culture for this very reason.
- Corticosteroids: Swelling in the body will be reduced by these. Decreased swelling in your sinuses can promote drainage.
- Decongestants: Getting mucus flowing is the objective of these medications.
You can get the majority of these medications in nasal spray or pill forms. You’ll be able to consult us about which you prefer, and which will be most effective.
Sometimes, surgery might be necessary to provide relief. Surgical options include:
- Functional changes: Drainage will be improved also improving symptoms with these surgical procedures (for example, repairing a deviated septum would count as this kind of surgery).
- Balloon sinuplasty: Additional space is created as this procedure helps dilate the sinus cavities encouraging drainage and relieving the symptoms.
Surgery isn’t the right choice for everyone, so be certain to consult with us.
Controlling your chronic sinusitis more successfully
In some instances, treatment will only get you so far. For some individuals, simply managing chronic sinusitis can help relieve symptoms by combating a flare-up before it starts. You can do quite a few things that can promote sinus health. They include the following:
- Altering your environment: Your exposure to seasonal and other allergy triggers should be avoided. Also, maintaining indoor air quality by replacing air filters is a positive step toward managing sinus infections.
- Modifying your diet: Include foods that are healthy for your sinuses, such as citrus, pineapple, and hot tea. Also, drink as much water as possible. Dehydration is your adversary! Staying hydrated can help minimize the symptoms of your sinus infection.
- Lower your overall stress levels: You may be shocked to find out that stress can boost the likelihood of developing a sinus infection and can also make it harder to clear them up. Get involved with activities that help you relax, like yoga, meditation, or whatever will help ease stress.
We will be there to help you successfully control your chronic sinusitis. So be certain to talk to us about steps you can take at home to avoid sinusitis symptoms.
Mental health self-care
Don’t forget that your mental health can be affected by any chronic sickness. Obviously, you will feel mentally drained when you’re in constant pain. So find support from mental health professionals, support groups, and your peers. If you’re having a hard time coping with your chronic sinusitis, it’s okay and you’re not alone. It can sap your strength! So be sure to get help where needed.
What’s in store for the future?
Over 11% of the United States population struggles with chronic sinusitis. So new treatment possibilities are always being formulated by physicians and scientists. Novel nasal sprays and new drugs (such as a new injectable drug called Dupixent that aims at reducing nasal polyps) are examples. Whether these new treatment options are correct for you will depend on your symptoms and outlook.
Surgeons are also constantly evolving new techniques designed to deliver results with only small incisions.
Get the help you need
Most individuals won’t be able to solve chronic sinusitis alone. It’s okay if you need some help. With successful treatment, you can start to enjoy all those daily activities again, instead of being focused on how much your head hurts or when you might stop feeling stuffy.
Is chronic sinusitis raining on your parade? Give us a call right away for a consultation.