People don’t think about much about their sinuses until something goes wrong. Once it does, it’s hard to ignore the symptoms of pain, congestion, poor breathing and more that mark an infection of the sinuses. This condition, particularly when it occurs repeatedly, calls for professional care. Regional ENT Associates in Gallatin, TN can provide expert sinusitis relief that can have you at your best again.
What Are the Sinuses?
The sinuses are a system of connected hollow spaces in the skull. They link to the nasal passages by a series of small channels. Air entering through the mouth and nose flows through these channels, which, like the nostrils, are lightly coated with mucus.
As air passes through the sinus passages on the way to the lungs, the mucus helps humidify and filter the air. This keeps the tissue moist and healthy and also traps bacteria. Beyond helping to purify and humidify the air we’re breathing, the sinuses also create the resonance that provides the individual character of our voices. The shape, volume, and health of the sinuses influence how “nasal” a voice sounds to others.
There are four types of sinuses:
The Maxillary Sinuses
These are the largest sinus cavities, located below the cheeks, above the teeth, and on the sides of the nose.
These are a pair of small, air-filled cavities located just behind the eyes in the brow region.
These small sinuses, next to the eyes, are lined with cells that make mucus to keep the nose from drying out.
These small sinuses are slightly below the ethmoids and perform a similar mucus-producing function.
The sinuses are a complex system and their proper function is vitally important to health and comfort. They have a constant job to do 24/7, in a variety of familiar and unfamiliar environments. There are many reasons the sinuses can become inflamed or swollen and produce abnormal discharge. These conditions result in symptoms such as pain, congestion, and a runny nose; the symptoms of sinusitis.
What Is Sinusitis?
Sinusitis is an inflammation or swelling of the tissue lining the sinuses that prevents normal mucus drainage through the nose. It’s a condition that can be both acute or chronic (meaning that the problem is ongoing). Sinusitis affects 37 million people each year, making it one of the most common health problems in the U.S.
The sinuses need to be able to drain regularly and freely in order to clear mucus and function properly. If the drainage gets blocked, sinus problems are the result. Healthy sinuses are filled with air. However, when they become congested and filled with fluid, germs can grow and cause a sinusitis infection. Sinusitis is often overlooked. In many cases the symptoms are chalked up to a cold or an allergy and the underlying problem is never diagnosed, much less solved.
A Deceptive Condition
Many of the symptoms of sinusitis are unmistakable, but they are easily mistaken for something else. Symptoms include headaches, facial pressure, nasal congestion, and post-nasal drip, which is drainage that flows down the back of the throat. It’s easy to think that any of these might be the result of a “bug” or a particularly pollen-heavy day.
With sinusitis, these symptoms last longer and can be more intense. They don’t go away with the usual rest and fluids you’d take for a cold. The congestion makes it difficult to breathe, which affects both daily energy and nightly sleep. Fever can break out, and people who live with asthma find their conditions worsening. Even the upper teeth can become uncomfortable, prompting an unnecessary and unproductive trip to the dentist.
If any of these symptoms last more than a day or two or seem unusually intense, you should seek medical attention for sinusitis relief.
What Are the Causes of Sinusitis?
Sinusitis can be rapid and short (acute), or slow-growing and persistent (chronic). Both types of sinusitis can result in significant discomfort and disability if left untreated.
Sometimes the natural drainage pathways of your sinuses get blocked because of inflammation. This can be caused by external forces, such as exposure to a dusty or smoky environment. They can also be the result of a structural abnormality inside the sinus or nostrils, such as scar tissue, trauma, or inflammation.
In these situations, fluid gets stuck within the sinus cavities. The fluid eventually becomes stagnant and bacteria can begin to grow, causing an infection. There are other causes of sinusitis besides bacterial. These include fungal sinusitis from mold and allergic sinusitis.
Patients with allergic sinusitis don’t necessarily have an infection, but their allergies cause significant inflammation which blocks up their sinus drainage and causes many of the same symptoms as patients with bacterial or fungal sinusitis.
Regardless of type, sinusitis is a condition that can be debilitating and lead to greater medical problems. If your symptoms don’t clear up in the usual day or two, you should consult a specialist in sinusitis relief.
How Is Sinusitis Treated?
For patients who get a sudden (acute) attack of sinusitis, medications are the most commonly used treatment for sinusitis relief. The solution is often an antibiotic and possibly a short course of steroids. Patients may also be instructed to use nasal sprays that contain either a steroid or antihistamine to relieve congestion and sneezing. Nasal irrigations can be extremely effective and may also be ordered.
If the infection becomes severe, or the patient gets multiple sinus infections despite trying medications, they may benefit from surgical treatment (sinus surgery) in addition to medications.
Patients who develop chronic (long lasting) sinusitis are also treated first with medication. Steroids, antibiotics, allergy testing, and possibly allergy shots may be beneficial. These measures typically offer relief. However, some patients who suffer from chronic sinusitis may benefit from more involved treatments, such as:
Balloon Dilation (Sinuplasty)
Balloon sinus dilation (widening) is a recent and exciting advancement in treatments available for patients with sinusitis. It is used for patients who suffer from chronic sinusitis or repeated bouts of acute sinusitis and who continue to have sinus problems even after trying the best available medical therapies.
Balloon sinus dilation, also called sinuplasty, widens an abnormal sinus passage. The technique uses a small surgical camera and a fiberoptic guided locator to identify the drainage passages that are causing the problem. Once in position, a small balloon on the tip of the locator device is inflated (dilated). This opens up the clogged sinus drainage pathways so they can properly drain.
Balloon dilation also serves to reset the mucosal lining of the drainage pathways, which allows healthy, new tissues to grow back in their place. With this procedure, there is no cutting or removal of tissue. As a result, the recovery time is very short. In general, patients can go home with no nasal packing and can start nasal rinses the day after the procedure.
Image Guidance Sinus Surgery
Sometimes the conditions that create sinus problems are serious enough that corrective surgery is the best solution. Image guidance is a new technology that advanced surgical centers use for sinus surgery. Almost all patients undergo a CT scan of their sinuses prior to surgery. These are most easily described as a multi-angle, 3D X-ray. With image guidance technology, the CT scan images are synchronized on a video monitor with the instruments that the surgeon is using.
Because the surgical instruments are synchronized with the CT scan, the surgeon can confirm that the location of the instrument within the nose and sinuses is precisely correct. This is important because the natural sinus drainage pathways are small and aren’t always easily identified with a sinus camera alone.
What Can I Do to Prevent Sinusitis?
There are many things you can do to reduce your chance of developing sinusitis or to relieve early sinusitis symptoms. One of the most important is to promote drainage and keep nasal passages clear. Here are some suggestions:
Bathe Your Nasal Passages Daily
Run water gently into the nasal passages to help clear excess mucus and moisten membranes. A neti pot or saline spray can be extremely effective.
Drink Lots of Water
Good hydration helps keep the mucus thin and loose. It’s also a good idea to Inhale steam during showers.
Avoid Dry Environments
A humidifier in your home, especially in the bedroom, and where you work can help prevent nasal passages from drying out.
Sleep With Your Head Elevated
Mucus pools in your sinuses at night when your head is down. Propping your head with pillows or a wedge during sleep can help.
These over-the-counter drugs may provide temporary relief from nasal congestion, but they make mucus thick and hard to drain.
Be Careful With Decongestants
Using these medications for more than a day or two runs the risk of setting off a spiral. The problem returns as soon as the medication wears off.
How Do I Get Sinusitis Relief?
Sinusitis is usually classified by how long it lasts. Acute sinusitis typically lasts a month or less, and what’s called “subacute” sinusitis lasts from a month to three months. Chronic sinusitis has symptoms that go on for even longer and can sometimes last for years. If several acute attacks happen within a year, it’s called “recurrent,” and it’s a problem you’ll want to take care of.
If you are like many patients, you may have misdiagnosed yourself as having allergies or a cold when you actually have sinusitis. When symptoms don’t disappear as they should, it’s important to see a specialist that can help with sinusitis relief.
Get Help Today
When your sinuses are acting up and not getting better the way you want them to, contact Regional ENT Associates in Gallatin, TN for an expert diagnosis. Their experience and care can help you conquer your sinus problems and get back to feeling better and doing what you love as quickly as possible.