Northeast Atlanta ENT will talk to you about sinusitis, its symptoms, treatment options, and prevention tips.
- If you have ever wondered about the differences between sinusitis symptoms versus cold or allergy symptoms, continue reading.
- If you are curious about treatment options for sinusitis, continue reading.
- If you have ever done research to find out whether or not acute sinusitis becomes chronic at some point, continue reading.
What is Sinusitis?
If you have ever had the common cold or if you suffered an allergy attack that would not go away, there is a good chance you had sinusitis.
Sinusitis is actually one of the most common health conditions in the United States. Approximately 37 million people get diagnosed with sinusitis every year. Actually, that number might be higher because its symptoms often are similar to those of allergies or colds. Consequently, many people do not take it upon themselves to seek proper diagnosis and treatment from an ENT doctor.
- Acute bacterial sinusitis is an infection of the sinus cavities that is caused by bacteria. The common cold, irritants by environmental pollutants, or an allergy attack usually precede sinusitis.
- In order to cure sinusitis and to prevent future complications, a proper diagnosis and treatment with antibiotics are necessary.
Under normal circumstances, the mucus that collects in the sinuses will drain into the nasal passages. If you experience a cold or an allergy attack, the sinuses will become inflamed and would be unable to drain. If this happens, it can lead to congestion and/or infection.
At this point, if you experience up to 4 weeks of purulent nasal drainage along with nasal obstruction, facial pain/pressure/fullness, or both, then your ENT doctor would diagnose acute sinusitis.
If your symptoms last longer than 10 days, or if the symptoms worsen after an initial improvement, the sinus infection is most likely bacteria-related.
Can Acute Sinusitis Ever Become Chronic?
The short answer is yes. As a matter of fact, for those patients who suffer frequently from sinusitis, or if the sinus infection lasts 3 months or longer, you may have chronic sinusitis.
Chronic sinusitis symptoms can possibly be less severe than those of acute sinusitis. However, if left untreated, chronic sinusitis can cause significant damage to the sinuses, which may eventually need surgery to repair.
Treatment Options for Sinusitis
There are 3 type of treatment options available for sinus problems:
- antibiotic therapy
- intensive antibiotic therapy
- outpatient and/or in-office sinus surgery (Balloon Sinuplasty or Functional endoscopic sinus surgery)
If you have bacterial sinusitis, the appropriate antibiotics should be prescribed. When looking at the chart on this page, if you have 3 or more symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with your ENT doctor for proper diagnosis.
He or she may recommend an oral spray, a nasal spray, or a drop decongestant. They will help to relieve congestion. It is also advised that you only use non-prescriptive nasal sprays or drops for a short period of time. Lastly, inhaling steam or using saline nasal sprays or drops can provide relief for your sinus discomfort.
Becoming resistant to antibiotic treatment means that some of the infection-causing bacteria will be immune to the effects of antibiotics. This makes it more challenging and difficult to treat common infections, including sinusitis. However, there are ways you can help prevent antibiotic resistance, including:
- Waiting up to 7 days before taking antibiotics for mild sinus infections. This will help your body naturally fight the infection.
- If you are prescribed an antibiotic by your doctor, you should take all of the antibiotics in your prescription, even if your symptoms get better.
Intensive Antibiotic Therapy
If you have chronic sinusitis, your doctor may prescribe intensive antibiotic therapy. For some patients, surgery is needed in order to remove physical obstructions that may be causing sinusitis.
Outpatient Sinus Surgery: In-office Sinus Surgery
Balloon Sinuplasty: Our ENT surgeons can perform this minimally invasive procedure to open up the sinus passages. We use a small, flexible balloon catheter guided through the nostril into the blocked sinuses. When we inflate it, the balloon will gently restructure and open the sinus passages. This process restores normal sinus drainage and function.
- Balloon Sinuplasty is much less invasive than traditional sinus surgery. This means you can look forward to a less painful recovery, faster recovery, and better long-term results.
- Oftentimes, the best candidates for Balloon Sinuplasty are patients who have sinusitis that has not yet been resolved, or patients who have recurring sinusitis when using traditional medical treatment.
- It is advised that surgery should only be considered if medical treatment fails, or if there is nasal obstruction that cannot be corrected with traditional medications. Our doctors will help determine which type of surgery will solve your sinus problems.
Functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS): This type of surgery is recommended for certain types of sinus disease. During this procedure, we will use an endoscope to look directly into the nose, while removing the diseased tissue and polyps and clearing the narrow channels located between the sinuses.
- Either local or general anesthesia can be used for this procedure. We can help determine which is the most suitable method for your circumstances.
- Before you opt for surgery, you should have full understanding and realistic expectations regarding recovery, results, and postoperative care.
- For a successful recovery, it is best if there is a cooperative effort between the patient and doctor throughout the entire recovery process. It is always best for patients to abide by all pre- and post-operative instructions.
What are the Symptoms of Sinusitis vs. a Cold or Allergy?
A child’s sinuses do not fully develop until the age of 20. It is possible for children to suffer from sinus infection. The maxillary (behind the cheek) and ethmoid (between the eyes) sinuses are present at birth even though they are very small.
Unfortunately, sinusitis in children is difficult to diagnose. This is due to the fact that respiratory infections are more frequent and its symptoms can sometimes be subtle. Unlike a cold or an allergy, bacterial sinusitis requires a doctor’s diagnosis. Also, him or her will provide treatment (typically an antibiotic) to prevent future complications.
If your child or yourself has a sinus infection, the following symptoms may occur:
- swelling around the eyes
- irritability or fatigue
- the common cold lasting more than 10-14 days (this can sometimes be accompanied by a low-grade fever)
- headache (usually not before the age of 6)
- thick, yellow-green nasal drainage
- post-nasal drip (this can sometimes lead to or be exhibited as a cough, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, and/or bad breath)
If your child receives medical therapy, but the symptoms still last, your doctor should determine the underling cause. This will help to determine if allergies or frequent upper respiratory infections are playing a role.
How to Prevent Sinusitis
Preventing a medical condition is very important. In order to avoid developing sinusitis while you have a common cold or an allergy attack, it is recommended to keep your sinuses clear by:
- Getting tested for allergies. After getting an allergy test and then following up with allergy treatments, you can increase your tolerance of allergy-causing substances. If at any point you think you may have sinusitis, call your ENT doctor for an appointment.
- If you suffer from allergies, try your best to stay away from allergy triggers. If you simply cannot stay away, use over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines, and/or a prescription nasal spray. These methods will help to control future allergy attacks.
- Avoid traveling by airplane as much as possible. If you simply have to fly, use a nasal spray decongestant before boarding the plane. This will help to prevent sinus blockage, which will allow the mucus to drain.
- Use an oral decongestant or a short course of nasal spray decongestant.
- When blowing your nose, do it gently. The proper technique is to block one nostril while blowing through the other.
- Try as hard as possible to drink plenty of fluids. This will help to keep nasal discharge thin.
What to Do Now
Since the symptoms for sinusitis are similar to those of colds and allergies, you may dismiss the fact that you should see a doctor. If you have any of the symptoms mentioned on this page, it is advised that you see an ENT doctor to get evaluated. Actually, if you have 3 or more symptoms, definitely schedule an appointment.
You can call either of our Northeast Atlanta ENT offices. We are conveniently located in the Suwanee & Johns Creek area and Lawrenceville, GA. Our doctors look forward to helping you feel better soon.