Stuffed Up? It Could be a Sinus Infection
March may be the start of the spring season, but plenty of people are still feeling the effects of winter in the form of colds and the flu. While the sniffles are no doubt common this time of year, many people misdiagnose themselves as having a cold when they’re actually suffering from a sinus infection. Though symptoms between the two can be similar, sinus infections are actually far more than mere nuisances—they can result in serious complications if not treated appropriately.
Think you may have a sinus infection? Here are a few things to know.
What are Sinus Infections?
Medically called “sinusitis” (also “rhinosinusitis”), sinus infections occur when either viruses or certain forms of bacteria multiply within the body’s sinus cavities—they can also happen as a result of inflammation. Sinuses are actually hollow areas within the bones which surround the nose and are generally empty in healthy individuals. With sinusitis, they may become filled with mucus, which can become a breeding ground for bacteria.
While sinus infections affect roughly 12% of American adults each year, episodes of sinusitis that are bacterial are rare and account for approximately 2% of cases. If bacterial sinusitis is suspected, antibiotics may be prescribed as treatment—typically only if the patient has been sick for 10 or more days. If the infection is no better after 10-14 days of symptomatic management, a bacterial sinusitis is more likely, and management with antibiotics will be considered.
What Causes Sinus Infections?
Since the sinuses are meant to remain hollow at all times, any presence of excess fluid can result in problems, many of which lead to infection. Sinus infections often start with the presence of swelling inside of the nose—it may be precipitated by the common cold or by allergies. This can lead to blockages in drainage ducts, which means mucus that doesn’t flow as it should and instead remains stagnant within the sinuses.
Patients with uncomplicated acute rhinosinusitis can be managed symptomatically, and 70-80% will improve within two weeks (there are no treatments that shorten the clinical course of the disease. Though less common, structural abnormalities can also cause sinus infections to occur, including nasal polyps.
Acute vs. Chronic Sinusitis
The vast majority of people who come down with a case of sinusitis will experience the illness as a result of complications from a cold, or perhaps a particularly bad bout of allergies. These cases are said to be acute in nature. That said, many people suffer from regular occurance of sinus infections, often due to structural abnormalities such as deviated septum.
While the vast majority of cases of acute sinusitis are caused by viruses, chronic sinusitis is often due to inflammation and/or structural abnormalities—surgery may be required for symptomatic relief in severe cases.
What are the Symptoms of Sinus Infection?
Symptoms of sinusitis can differ depending upon whether or not the illness is described as being acute or chronic. Common symptoms, however, are as follows:
- Facial pain
- Pressure in sinuses
- Stuffy (occasionally runny) nose
- Degraded sense of smell
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Dental pain (upper teeth)
- Pus in nasal cavity
- Post-nasal drip
Though sinusitis commonly affects adults, children are also susceptible due to a number of different factors. Causes for sinusitis in children may include:
- Bottles (especially drinking when laying on back)
- Second-hand smoke
Sinus Pain Got You Down? ConvenientMD Can Help
Sinus infections can feel like the end of the world, but there’s no reason to suffer if you’re in pain. At ConvenientMD, we regularly treat patients dealing with acute, subacute and chronic sinusitis. We can help manage acute sinusitis with symptom onset by relieving symptoms of nasal obstruction, runny nose, fever and fatigue.
Just walk right into ConvenientMD to get treated today—you never need an appointment!