What Happens If A Sinus Infection Is Left Untreated
A sinus infection can cause a long list of annoying problems, but if left untreated, your symptoms could continue for months on end. And in rare cases, very serious complications can develop.
In this blog, the board-certified physicians at New York ENT explain more about sinus infections and what can happen if theyre left untreated.
Chronic Sinusitis Complications: Meningitis And Brain Abscess
The remaining untreated sinusitis complications are not common experiences, but they do crop up. When these complications do arise, patients are exposed to extreme risks to their health.
If chronic sinusitis goes untreated for a length of time, it is possible the infection can spread to vital parts of your body, including to the bones, spinal fluid, and the brain. These complications, meningitis and brain abscesses, are life-threatening and require immediate emergency surgery.
Teen Dies After Sinus Infection: How To Tell If You Have Complications
Imaging shows sinusitis of the maxillary sinus and the right meatus.
Yes, your sinuses are next to some pretty important parts of your body such as your eyes, skull, and brain. Yes, a sinus infection can occasionally spread to these areas and thus have more serious complications. And, yes, on rare occasions, these complications can be life threatening, like what reportedly happened in Michigan to a 13-year-old boy, who died after his sinus infection had apparently spread to his brain, according to Jason Duaine Hahn, writing for People.
The article in People related the tragic story of how an eighth-grader began having headaches and cold symptoms, which progressed to “migraines” and then to a swollen face with loss of muscle movement on the left side of his face and eventually to blood clots and strokes. As Hahn related, the teen eventually passed away from complications of the infection.
Indeed, this is a stark reminder of how fragile life can be and how seemingly simple health problems can quickly mushroom into much more complicated ones, even if you are young and otherwise healthy. However, this does not mean that you should freak out just because you have a sinus infection and begin popping antibiotics like they are chocolate-covered potato chips. Not only are antibiotics useless against viruses, which cause many sinus infections, but such medications can also select for antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which are much nastier and more difficult to treat.
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When Sinus Infections Become Serious
While the main reason antibiotics are prescribed is for patient comfort, they can help prevent complications. While rare, it is possible for untreated sinus infections to spread to the eyes or brain.
Of the two, complications around the eyes are more common. Symptoms of spreading include redness, swelling and reduced vision. Serious cases are treated with IV antibiotics and patients are admitted to the hospital and ordered a CT scan.
In rarer cases, sinus infections in the rear center of the head can spread to the brain, leading to life-threatening conditions like meningitis or brain abscesses.
Before antibiotics, people would die from sinusitis, Dr. Sindwani explained. However, this is highly unlikely. In most cases, the bacterial infection goes away, especially if you dont have underlying medical problems.
If you experience a sinus infection, be sure to monitor your symptoms and see a doctor if they persist more than 10 days. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call the experts at Pinnacle ENT Associates today.
What Are Warning Signs Of A Dangerous Sinus Infection
If acute sinus infection is caused by viral infection, it is usually easy to treat or even will relieve on its own . Typically, it lasts a few days, 7-10 days, and then will get better. But if it is caused by bacterial infection, it is relatively more difficult to cope and usually will take one or some of the following paths:
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Understanding The Complications Of A Serious Sinus Infection
These situations are very rare, but some people have experienced health complications associated with a serious sinus infection. Some of these complications have involved sinus infections spreading to the eyes and even the brain. Infection spreading to the eyes is the most common complication. This could cause redness, swelling, and even blindness in a severe state called cavernous sinus thrombosis. Sinus infections can also spread to the rear center of one’s head causing life-threatening ailments such as brain abscesses. When this happens, it is best to see your doctor immediately for additional treatment options. Some of these options include:
These are normally to ease the patient’s discomfort level in the nasal area. Most doctors like to prescribe antibiotics like amoxicillin with potassium clavulanate.
Steroid drugs are great for reducing inflammation and healing the body. However, because of their side effects, it may be good to consult a doctor before taking these.
Saline sprays that can flush sinuses with water are also good for clearing out infections.
There are many reasons for needing sinus surgery such as recurring sinus infections, obstruction of the airway, chronic sinusitis, sinus tumors or polyps, and structural abnormalities of the nose or sinuses.
How To Treat A Sinus Infection At Home
In the first two weeks of a sinus infection, patients may use saline sprays, over-the-counter steroid sprays like Flonase, and over-the-counter decongestants.
After 10 days, if the drainage is still colored, an antibiotic is likely necessary. Theres no homeopathic alternative to antibiotics. However, saline spray, topical steroid sprays, and decongestants work well with antibiotics to clear most infections.
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Complications Of An Untreated Sinus Infection
A mild case of acute sinusitis can be treated at home with over-the-counter medications and natural remedies like nasal irrigation, decongestants, steam inhalation, rest and plenty of fluids. Sinus infections that linger for weeks or months can require more intense treatment. Antibiotics and medication directed at the sinus inflammation may return normal sinus function. Surgery can be an option in cases of recurrent acute sinusitis or chronic sinus infections.
Most sinus infections will resolve in a week or two. However, there are rare cases of serious and potentially life-threatening complications that may arise. Knowing what the signs and symptoms of these complications can keep a complication from becoming a catastrophe.
The thin sinus walls share a border with the surrounding tissue including the eyes, brain and major nerves and blood vessels. A sinus infection can sometimes spread beyond the border of the sinuses. Read below about the potential rare consequences of an untreated sinus infection.
In rare situations, the failure to treat a sinus infection can lead to a serious complication.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Sinus Infection
Sinusitis generally follows a cold. Why? When you have a cold, the cold virus may damage the delicate cilia lining your sinuses and nasal passages so that mucous cannot be swept to the back of your throat to be swallowed. The mucous lining becomes inflamed which can block the small opening between your sinuses and your nasal passages so that your sinuses cant drain. The mucous that is trapped in your sinuses becomes thicker, which makes it the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, viruses and fungi.
Symptoms of acute sinusitis may include:
- a cold that just wont go away
- yellow or green nasal discharge
- cough which may be worse at night
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Warning Signs Of A Dangerous Sinus Infection
Sinus infection or sinusitis is common. Many times it is mild and rarely causes complications. Even sometimes it will get better in time with nothing more than enough rest and fluid. However if its complications have occurred, some could be dangerous or even life-threatening. Thats why its also important to understand the warning signs and when to seek immediate medical help!
Eye Signs And Symptoms
An infection in the sinuses can sometimes spread to the eye structures and cause a variety of signs and symptoms, depending on which tissues are involved. Profound swelling, typically affecting one eye, is a characteristic symptom. Eyelid swelling is often so severe that the affected eye can barely be opened. Other signs and symptoms that suggest eye-related complications of a sinus infection include:
- Swelling of the white portion of the eye
- Pus drainage from the involved eye
- Redness of the eye and/or eyelid
- Protrusion of the affected eyeball
- Pain with eye movement
- Inability to move the affected eyeball
- An infection in the sinuses can sometimes spread to the eye structures and cause a variety of signs and symptoms, depending on which tissues are involved.
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When Is Deviated Nasal Septum Treatment Required
Many people with deviated nasal septum find relief with medication and conservative methods and donât need surgery. Surgery is needed if you have severe problems that dont respond to medicines. The severity of your obstruction is not the only factor that determines if surgery is right for you. In addition, how much relief you hope to receive from treatment can make a big difference even when there is only a moderate deviation.
How An Ent Treats A Sinus Infection
If you have a lingering sinus infection after antibiotics, an ENT doctor often elects to be more aggressive in treatment than a primary care physician. They may prescribe longer courses of antibiotics, stronger medications, or recommend a procedure to open the sinuses.
If you have persistent sinus problems, the sinuses must first be unblocked. Sometimes, thats done through a simple balloon sinuplasty and irrigation. Other times, unblocking the sinuses requires a more aggressive procedure like endoscopic sinus surgery. We opt for this procedure when the sinuses become so blocked, tissue and bone need to be removed to create a wider opening.
If youre dealing with a lingering sinus infection, dont let it progress to a more serious issue. Call your ENT so they can discover whats at the root of your problem and find a treatment to bring you relief.
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I’ve Heard That Decongestant Nasal Sprays Can Actually Make Congestion Worse If You Use Them For Too Long Is This True How Long Can I Use Them Safely
Some medications can indeed cause something called rebound, in which the congestion returns after a few days of use. People can even become dependent on these products, relying on them for months or even years. To be safe, use products containing oxymetazoline no more than three to five days in a row.
How To Prepare For Deviated Nasal Septum Surgery
Your doctor and care coordinator will instruct you to be prepared for your nose surgery so that you can recover without complications. Here are some tips to help you prepare for nasal septum surgery:
- Avoid taking aspirin, ibuprofen, or any herbal supplements. Taking these medicines may lead to heavy bleeding during surgery.
- Avoid smoking, tobacco use, and alcohol consumption 2-3 weeks before the surgery.
- Make sure that the surgeon knows everything about your medical history, diet, allergies, etc.
- Avoid wearing makeup, nose rings, or other jewelry before the surgery.
- Avoid eating or drinking after midnight on the day before the surgery to avoid anesthesia-related complications.
- Bring an attendant with you on the day of surgery.
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Warning Signs And Symptoms
The first step to understand Sinus infections signs and dangers, is to know the symptoms of a sinus infection. Telling sinus infection apart from other ailments can prove tricky. Here are some warning signs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says you should look for to help recognize it.
Symptoms of a Sinus Infection:
- Runny nose or cold symptoms that last longer than 7-10 days.
- Nasal discharge
- Nasal congestion
- Reduced sense of smell and taste
Other less common warning signs of a sinus infection include:
- Pressure and swelling in your sinuses accompanied by earaches, dental pain, or pain in jaws and cheeks.
- Cough due to the discharge from your sinus down the back of the throat .
- Sore throat and hoarse voice
Pain Or Pressure In Your Sinuses
Facial pain is a common symptom of sinusitis. You have several different sinuses above and below your eyes, as well as behind your nose. Any of these air-filled cavities can hurt when you have a sinus infection.
Inflammation and swelling can cause your sinuses to ache with dull pressure. This is because inflammation may alter the typical path of mucus from the nose to the back of the throat.
You may feel pain in:
- on either side of your nose
- in your upper jaws and teeth
- between your eyes
This may lead to a headache. Headaches caused by sinus infections can occur where the sinuses are or in other places.
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The Dangers Of Sinusitis And Sinus Infections
If you experience a stuffy or runny nose, headaches, or facial pressure more often than not, you may be suffering from a sinus infection or inflammation that requires immediate attention. Millions of people experience sinus infections at some point in their lives. Most cases go away on their own. But for some people, the extreme and agonizing pain and discomfort of nasal congestion and sinus infections are facts of life and a never-ending nightmare. The symptoms often wax and wane without warning. They can also become extremely dangerous the longer the underlying cause remains untreated. To understand the urgency of getting proper and timely care, consider the following information on the dangers of sinus infections.
Chronic Sinusitis Complications: Orbital Cellulitis
Orbital cellulitis is a chronic sinusitis complication caused by the spread of the original sinus infection to the eyes. Eye infections from sinusitis are even more likely to cause other infections throughout the body. Additionally, orbital cellulitis can be irritating to the patient it causes redness around the eyes, puss in the eye sockets, and can cause vision changes if untreated.
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What Happens In The Long Term
Most cases of acute sinusitis clear up with home treatment. Sometimes acute sinusitis doesnât clear up and becomes subacute or chronic sinusitis.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, subacute sinusitis lasts four to eight weeks in duration. Chronic sinusitis can last over eight weeks. In very rare cases, acute infectious sinusitis can lead to an infection that spreads to your eyes, ears, or bones. It could also cause meningitis.
- a severe headache that doesnât respond to medication
- a high-grade fever
When To See A Doctor
If the symptoms persist after ten days without improvement, then it is time to see a doctor. The specialists that treat sinus infections are ear, nose, and throat doctors, who will likely prescribe antibiotics and antihistamines after a thorough check-up.
Also, suppose a person has suffered from multiple sinus infections in the past year. In that case, this is a big warning sign and requires a visit to the physician.
If left untreated, sinus infections can lead to further complications, including eye infections or swelling around the eyes and reduced vision, meningitis, brain abscess, and bone infections.
The Life Altering Complications Of Untreated Chronic Sinus Infections
Sinusitis is a byproduct of ongoing inflammation. Chronic inflammation is dangerous. It gradually destroys healthy tissues and organs and can cause serious infections of the brain, eyes and lungs. Do not make assumptions about sinus infections that last 10 to 12 weeks or longer or that recur. Severe complications can initially be asymptomatic or mimic the signs of other health concerns. Treatment delays can increase the likelihood of poor outcomes.
Untreated sinusitis allows bacteria and other harmful pathogens to enter the bloodstream and travel all throughout the body, leading to the following potentially life-threatening conditions.
Meningitis develops when infection targets the brain or spinal fluid. It requires immediate medical attention.
Vision changes occur when sinus infections damage the optic nerves in the eyes. Complications include temporary or permanent vision disturbances or blindness.
Olfactory dysfunction can be partial or complete, meaning some capacity to smell or taste remains. Sinus infections can also cause temporary or permanent damage to the olfactory system, impacting the ability to smell and taste.
Recurrent pneumonia as well as significant complications of asthma like chronic wheezing, shortness of breath or coughing.
Fast Facts On Neti Pots
- Neti pots can relieve the symptoms of rhinosinusitis if used properly.
- The earliest record of nasal irrigation comes from the ancient practice of Ayurveda.
- A person must correctly clean their neti pots before and after each use.
- A person should never share a neti pot with someone else.
- A person who has questions on how to use their neti pot should speak with a doctor or pharmacist.
The neti pot is a type of saline nasal irrigation treatment. The user fills a neti pot with a saltwater solution, tilts their head forward, and pours the solution into one nostril.
The liquid goes into one nostril and out of the other one. The solution is available as an over-the-counter treatment at most drugstores. A person can also make a saline irrigation solution at home using table salt.
With its roots in Indian Ayurvedic medicine practices, nasal irrigation and possible treatments for administering were first introduced to Western medicine by The Lancet journal in 1902. Since then, has shown that SNI is an effective way to reduce congestion due to a variety of causes, and this includes using net pots
The higher risk of infection .
The FDA says it is informing doctors, other healthcare professionals, device makers, and users about safe practices when using these devices.
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