Sinus Infection: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

What is Sinus Infection?

Sinusitis or Sinus Infection is the inflammation of the sinuses due to bacterial, viral or fungal agents. – Sinusitis results in hindrance of the usual flow of the mucus from the sinus back to the throat. The hair like projections in the nasal cavity gets blocked when allergens or pathogens cause infection in this area. The blockage results in the swelling of the glands.

[Note: If the sinus cavity close to the brain gets infected, it has the potential to escalate into a life threatening situation quickly. Swift action and treatments is recommended.]

Types of Sinus Infection
  • Acute sinusitis: Flu like symptoms accompanied by runny or stuffy nose and pain in the facial muscles can spread over two weeks
  • Subacute sinus: Inflammation here lasts for 4 to 12 weeks
  • Chronic inflammation: Symptoms can last for up to 12 weeks or more
  • Recurrent sinusitis: Takes place many times annually

Causes of Sinus Infection

In Adults
  • Swelling inside the nose due to common cold
  • Blocked sinus drainage ducts due to infection
  • Structural faults in the shape of the ducts at from birth that causes narrowing of the ducts
  • Nasal polyps
  • Weak immune system or side effects from immunity system suppressing drugs
In Children
  • Allergic reactions from allergens
  • Illnesses from other sick children at school
  • Pacifiers
  • Excessive environmental smoke
  • Common cold
  • Hay fever

Symptoms of Sinus Infection

For Acute Sinusitis
  • Pain in the facial muscles
  • Blocked nose
  • Runny nose
  • Loss of smell
  • Congestion or a cough
  • High fever
  • Bad breath
  • Fatigue & drowsiness
  • Pain in the teeth
Chronic Sinusitis

The symptoms for this particular type of sinus infection can last for about 12 weeks at a stretch:

  • A feeling of congestion on the face
  • Nasal blockage
  • Nasal cavity filled with pus
  • High fever
  • Runny nose
  • Discolored post nasal drainage
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Complications from Sinus Infection

Following are some of the side effects that people who suffer from chronic cases of Sinusitis:

  • Meningitis – Inflammation of the fluid and membrane surrounding the brain
  • Loss of sense of smell – Obstruction in the nasal cavity and inflammation of the olfactory nerve could lead to a partial or complete loss of the sense of smell
  • Vision problems – If the infection somehow finds its way into the eye socket of the patient, it can cause vision impairment with damages ranging from temporary to permanent

Diagnosis of Sinus Infection

  • Nasal endoscopy – Also called rhinoscopy where a flexible tube inserted into the nasal cavity for examining the sinuses up-close.
  • Imaging studies – Images were taken with the help of an MRI, or CT scan provides detailed information about the nasal area and the sinus cavities.
  • Nasal and sinus tissue samples – When preliminary treatments fail to stabilize the condition, tissue samples can be taken from the patient to determine the irritation causing agent.
  • Test for allergies – if there is a probability that the nasal irritation caused by some allergic reaction the medical practitioner could opt for a simple skin allergy test.

Treatments for Sinus Infection

  • Saline nasal medications – Such as nasal solutions or sprays that aids in the reduction of nasal drainage and helps in rinsing away allergens and irritants.
  • Nasal corticosteroids – Medicated nasal sprays that assist in the prevention of inflammation of the nasal tract and sinuses. Examples are fluticasone, triamcinolone, budesonide, etc.
  • Oral or injected corticosteroids – These medications administered to patients suffering from severe cases of Sinusitis. In case of nasal polyps, these are very effective.

Other treatments for severe cases

  • Antibiotics – Administered to the patient in case the infection is the effect of a bacterial infection.
  • Immunotherapy – Patients suffering from allergic reactions that resulted in Sinusitis, anti-allergy injections given to the patient.
  • Surgery (Endoscopic sinus surgery) – In severe cases where medication is not at all effective, surgical procedures are recommended by the doctor. Here the enlarged polyp or tissue is only removed from the nasal cavity thereby facilitating drainage.
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To prevent Sinus Infection

Following are some preventive measure that might help:

  • Avoid smoking and passive smoking
  • Maintain personal hygiene and wash the hands properly especially after sneezing
  • Identify items that a person is allergic to and try to avoid them as much as possible

Best OTC Sinus Medicines

Given below are some of the best over the counter (OTC) medicines that ease out Sinus Infection:

  • Pseudoephedrine – Ideal for opening up of nasal passages and for reducing inflammation of the sinuses. Pseudoephedrine (or Sudafed) has a stimulating effect on the body. Side effects include insomnia. It is advised to take medicine in the morning rather than in the night before bedtime. Individuals with high blood pressure and arrhythmia to consult their physician before taking it.
  • Phenylephrine – In a way is a weaker form of pseudoephedrine regarding stimulating effects.
  • Nasal decongestant sprays – Oxymetazoline is a good example. It is recommended to use this spray at night for decongesting the nasal cavity. Side effects are comparatively less than the other two drugs mentioned above.

When to visit a doctor?

It is best to seek medical assistance if a case of sinusitis is not improving even after 48 hours. If any of the following symptoms are present in an individual, seek medical help immediately:

  • Pain in the facial muscles and teeth
  • Pain in the areas around the lower eyelid and the bridge of the nose
  • Headaches that don’t subside even after the administration of OTC medicines like ibuprofen
  • High fever that doesn’t go away (101°F or 38.3°C)
  • Yellow or green colored nasal discharge
  • Flu like symptoms for more than seven days

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