Sinusitis: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

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Sinusitis occurs when the cavities around the nasal passages become inflamed or swollen. They prevent mucus from draining properly, and it backs up inside the sinuses. Most people with this condition have a hard time breathing and can even experience pressure and pain in their sinuses. It can be treated and usually clears up within a week. If left untreated, sinusitis can lead to serious infections and other health issues.

Sinusitis Causes

Sinusitis is often caused by the common cold. It can also be caused by infections and allergies. Sinusitis is not a disease itself but rather a reaction to an illness. Certain illnesses and disease can put a person more at risk for developing sinusitis. These conditions include:

  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Immune system disorders
  • HIV
  • Deviated septum
  • Nasal polyps
  • Tumors
  • Respiratory infections: more than 90% are caused by viruses.
  • Smoking

Sinusitis Symptoms

The symptoms of sinusitis can vary. Some people only experience mild symptoms, and others suffer from extreme symptoms. The most common symptoms associated with sinusitis include:

  • Headache
  • Earache
  • Pain in the jaw and teeth
  • Sore throat
  • Reduced sense of smell
  • Cough
  • Bad breath
  • Fever
  • Pain and pressure under the eyes

Sinusitis Diagnosis

Doctors can diagnose sinusitis in several ways. They can sometimes diagnose it just by hearing about the symptoms. Most will prefer to confirm the diagnosis with some tests and procedures. The most common of these include:

  • Nasal Endoscopy: A small tube with a light and camera is inserted into the nose to allow the doctor to see what’s inside.
  • CT Scan: A CT scan can show doctors what the inside of the sinuses looks like and helps them identify any abnormalities or complications.
  • Tissue Cultures: Doctors may take small samples of tissue from the sinuses to determine if there is an infection or other illness that may be causing the sinusitis.
  • Allergy Tests: If allergies are a possible cause for sinusitis, doctors will conduct allergy tests to determine the allergens.

Sinusitis Treatment

Sinusitis will usually resolve on its own. It may take several days for the virus responsible to run its course. Treatments are focused on relieving the symptoms of the conditions. Common treatments include:

  • Nasal Spray: The spray helps relieve congestion and reduce swelling in the nasal cavities.
  • Corticosteroids: These sprays help reduce inflammation and allow the sinuses to drain better.
  • Decongestants: These medications help relieve congestion. They can be prescribed or purchased over the counter.
  • Pain Relievers: Pain relievers can help make the patient more comfortable.
  • Allergy Medication: If allergies are the cause of the sinusitis, allergy medication can help clear it up faster.
  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics can help clear up any infections in the sinuses that could be causing the nasal passages to be inflamed.

Sinusitis Prognosis

Sinusitis typically clears up on its own within a week. Most people will only experience it a few times in their lives. Some people do suffer from chronic sinusitis. Finding a treatment that works and identifying the underlying causes of the condition can help patients recover much faster.

Additional Resources:

  • American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery