What Happens In Your Body During A Sinus Infection
One in seven adults will be diagnosed with a sinus infection in any given year. But do we really know what our sinuses are?
Sinuses are air-filled spaces inside the skull that produce a light coating of mucus, which drains through the nose. Theyre supposed to stay open and aerated, but sometimes their outflow tract can become blocked. When this happens, the mucus gets backed up and becomes trapped in the sinuses.
Why Are Antibiotics Important
Antibiotics are one of the most common classifications of drugs used to treat bacterial infections. Since their introduction to the world of medicine, they have helped treat countless people, especially those with infectious diseases.
Antibiotics are very crucial during surgeries and are used to prevent patients from getting any infections from the cut. Without antibiotics, there is a higher chance of blood poisoning and the more complicated surgeries would not be possible to perform.
When Do We Need Antibiotics For Sinus Infection
Antibiotics are not needed for many sinus infections, but your doctor can decide if you need an antibiotic. You doctor may recommend antibiotics if:
Most sinus infections usually get better on their own without antibiotics. When antibiotics arent needed, they wont help you, and their side effects could still cause harm. Side effects can range from minor issues, like a rash, to very serious health problems, such as antibiotic-resistant infections and C. diff infection, which causes diarrhea that can lead to severe colon damage and death.
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What Is The Best Treatment For Sinus Infection
For those who suffer chronic sinusitis, the symptoms of sinus infection are easily recognizable. Viral, fungal, and bacterial sinus infection symptoms can feel very similar. Because we share common symptoms, it is easy to believe that all sinus infections are the same and all sinus infections have similar treatments. The truth is, your sinus infection is unique and your treatment should be customized to meet your specific needs, achieve your individual goals, and fit within your budget.
The best treatment for your sinus infection is the one that is designed specifically for you. The most successful physicians understand this and take a comprehensive approach to design a treatment plan that makes use of a wide variety of tools. Depending on your health condition and your unique needs, these tools may include:
When A Sinus Infection May Be Dangerous
A sinus infection occurs when the tissue lining in your sinus cavity becomes swollen or inflamed. When your sinuses are blocked, they become a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses that can lead to an infection. Thats why its best to visit your doctor at the first signs of a sinus infection. Otherwise, it could lead to a chronic condition. Heres how to know if your sinus infection has developed into something more dangerous:
Should You Treat A Sinus Infection With Antibiotics
Over the past few months Ive seen patient after patient drag themselves to the clinic with coughing, sneezing, headaches and green or yellow nasal discharge, sometimes accompanied by ear and tooth pain. Some people with infection may experience fevers, chills or night sweats signs that the body is fighting a virus or bacteria. These are symptoms I expect as a primary care doctor especially during the spring seasons. They are the telltale signs of sinusitis. But if that sums up symptoms you have, do you need antibiotics? The question may be more complicated than you think.
Each year, more than 30 million Americans endure sinusitis an inflammation of sinus spaces surrounding the nose that makes it difficult to drain fluid that normally flows through the sinuses. Much like a detective weighing clues, us health providers use symptom severity and duration to determine the cause of a patients sickness.
The World Health Organization has called antibiotic resistance one of the biggest threats to global health, saying misuse of antibiotics in humans and animals is accelerating the process.
At a health professionals discretion, antibiotics can be prescribed if a person appears very sick or has any underlying chronic disease that may make them prone to becoming sicker.
How To Avoid Spreading Your Contagious Sinus Infection
David Cuthbertson, MD
The old adage, sharing is caring, doesnt apply to illnesses.
But with over 30 million Americans diagnosed with sinus infections every year, how can we be sure we arent spreading this particular ailment to those around us?
Should we to go to work or to the grocery store with a sinus infection? Or should we call in sick and order our groceries online?
Is a sinus infection contagious? And if it is, should you stay home? Wear a mask? Or carry on as usual?
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Reduced Or Complete Loss Of The Sense Of Smell
Untreated sinus infection can diminish or completely deprive you of your sense of smell . This can be due to inflammation and blockage of your nasal passages, or damage to the olfactory nerve.
Though the loss of smell from a sinus infection is often transient, it can be permanent in severe cases, wreaking havoc on the quality of your life and overall wellbeing.
Anatomy Of The Paranasal Sinuses
The paranasal sinuses comprise four pairs of sinuses that surround the nose and drain into the nasal cavity by way of narrow channels called ostia . Mucus leaving the frontal and maxillary sinuses drains through the ethmoid sinuses , so a backup in the ethmoids is likely to clog the other two types of sinuses. The sphenoid sinuses are located deep in the skull, behind the eyes. Sinusitis develops when one or more sinuses become blocked.
There are millions of bacteria in our noses, and most of the time, they’re harmless. Even when a few creep into the sinuses, they don’t cause trouble, as long as they keep draining into the nose along with mucus. But if sinus drainage is blocked, glands in the sinuses continue to produce mucus, and the resulting pool of backed-up mucus provides what Dr. Metson calls “the perfect culture medium.” The bacteria grow out of control, causing infection, and the immune system kicks off an inflammatory response. The result: swelling, which causes and facial pain mucus buildup, which produces congestion and an influx of white blood cells to fight the bacteria, which thickens the mucus and may tint it yellow or green. Other symptoms include loss of smell or taste, cough, bad breath, fever, toothache, and fullness in the ears.
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Rare Cases Can Turn Serious
Antibiotics also can help ward off rare but potentially dangerous complications that arise when a sinus infection spreads to the eyes or brain, Dr. Sindwani says.
Complications around the eyes are the more common of the two. These complications can cause redness, swelling around the eyes and reduced vision, and even lead to blindness in a severe form known as cavernous sinus thrombosis. Serious cases are immediately treated with IV antibiotics. Patients are usually admitted to the hospital for a CT scan to see if fluid needs to be drained, Dr. Sindwani says.
Also in rare cases, sinus infections in the rear center of ones head can spread into the brain. This can lead to life-threatening conditions like meningitis or brain abscess, Dr. Sindwani says.
Before antibiotics, people would die from sinusitis, he says. But he emphasizes that such complications are unlikely. In most cases, the bacterial infection goes away, especially if you dont have underlying medical problems.
Its important to monitor your symptoms if you suspect a sinus infection. If the condition lingers or worsens, call your doctor.
How You Can Treat Sinusitis Yourself
You can often treat mild sinusitis without seeing a GP by:
- getting plenty of rest
- taking painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen
- avoiding allergic triggers and not smoking
- cleaning your nose with a salt water solution to ease congestion
You do not need to use all of the solution, but make a fresh solution each time you clean your nose.
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Describing A Sinus Infection By Cause
Another way to describe a sinus infection is by what kind of germ causes it. Most sinus infections are caused by viruses, just like the common cold.
Viral sinus infections generally end on their own without any medical intervention. They usually only affect the upper respiratory system, with symptoms like runny nose, sore throat, facial pressure, congestion and headache.
But sometimes viral infections can turn into bacterial infections. Inflamed, blocked-off sinuses encourage the kind of moist, vulnerable environment where bacteria can thrive.
You might have a bacterial sinus infection if your symptoms linger beyond about a week. If your drainage turns yellow or green, that could mean your viral infection has turned bacterial.
Bacterial sinus infections typically need a little help from antibiotics to clear up.
Lastly, even though the vast majority of sinus infections are caused by viruses and bacteria, it is possible to have a sinus infection caused by a fungus. Most fungal sinus infections are caused by an allergic reaction to a fungus in the air, like black mold. This type is called allergic fungal sinusitis.
Another type of fungal sinus infection called invasive fungal sinusitis exists, but is extremely rare. People who are otherwise healthy dont get this infection. This type of infection is possible in severely immunocompromised people, such as those going through chemotherapy or with poorly controlled diabetes.
What Are The Different Types Of Sinus Infections
Most sinus infections are caused by viruses, and theyll usually go away on their own. In fact, if the infection doesnt clear up after a week to 10 days, it can be an indication that its caused by bacteria. It may have started as a bacterial infection, or a viral infection may develop into a bacterial infection after your sinuses become filled with fluid and bacteria then forms.
If you have sinus infections that seem to clear up only to shortly return, you probably have a bacterial infection. Thick, dark, or greenish-yellow nasal discharge is another indication, but your doctor can perform tests to verify the type of infection if needed.
Sinus infections can also be classified as acute or chronic. Acute infections usually start suddenly with symptoms such as a runny, stuffy nose and facial pain and can last up to four weeks. Chronic sinusitis occurs when your infection persists for at least 12 weeks despite attempts to treat it.
In the short term, a sinus infection can cause a long list of symptoms, including the following:
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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:
Sinus Pain And Pressure
Fluid trapped in the sinuses can fill the sinus cavities, causing intense pain and pressure. The sinuses may be sensitive to the touch. A person may have an urge to sneeze but be unable to do so.
The pain can be in the cheeks, around the eyes and nose, or in the forehead because these areas are where the sinuses are. Bending over may make the pain worse.
Sometimes, the pressure and pain are intense enough to interfere with sleep.
Sinusitis may also cause the tissue in the nose to swell.
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How Can You Tell If You Have A Sinus Infection Or Covid
You cannot tell if you have COVID or a sinus infection just based on your symptoms alone. Some symptoms of COVID overlap with those of a sinus infection, but there are also symptoms that are specific to one or the other.
While the symptoms of a sinus infection mostly involve your respiratory system, COVID can cause a range of symptoms that affect other parts of your body .
Its also important to note that you can have COVID and not have any symptoms.
Acute Subacute And Chronic Bacterial Sinusitis
Bacterial sinusitis can be grouped into the following subtypes based on the duration of symptoms:
- Acute, which lasts for less than four weeks
- Subacute, lasting for between four and 12 weeks
- Chronic, lasting for more than 12 weeks
- Recurrent acute, occurring four or more times a year, for more than seven days, with symptoms resolving completely in between bouts
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Is A Sinus Infection Contagious
When you have a cold, the flu or COVID, the infectious particles replicate themselves in the nose. These illnesses also tend to cause coughing and sneezing, which project these germs out of your body. For this reason, you can easily spread these bugs to anyone around you.
But the infectious material in a sinus infection is behind the face, not actually in the nose. So while its possible to spread a sinus infection, they dont spread easily without very close contact.
Are Sinus Infections Viral
Sinusitis can occur due to a viral infection. If excess mucus develops and cannot exit the body due to a blockage or nasal inflammation, it can cause a sinus infection. You may start with a viral cold that doesnt clear up and then turns into a bacterial infection. Allergies can also lead to sinus infections, as can a deviated septum. When bacteria grows in the sinuses, it is a bacterial infection.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, sinusitis is typically caused by a virus, and less commonly caused by bacteria.
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When Should You See A Doctor About Your Sinus Infection
Most sinus infections stay viral and resolve on their own. But if home remedies arent helping, if your drainage turns yellow or green, or if your sinus infection sticks around for more than a week or 10 days, it might be time to give your ENT doctor a call.
Still have more questions about whether your sinus infection is contagious? Not sure if youre dealing with a viral or bacterial infection? Contact ENT Associates of Lubbock today, and we can help you figure out your next steps!
Balloon Sinuplasty: A Safe And Effective Sinusitis Treatment
Sinus surgery is not the only option for long-term sinus pressure relief. Balloon Sinuplasty is a minimally invasive alternative to surgery that can be done from the comfort of the office and get you back to enjoying all that life has to offer. This safe and effective procedure does not involve cutting or removing bone or tissue. Imagine all the benefits of a real solution without discomfort, long recovery, or excessive bleeding.
Unlike sinus medications, sinuplasty addresses the root cause of your sinus pressure by cleaning out the sinus cavity and restoring normal flow. This procedure simply inserts a tiny balloon through the nose and into the sinus cavity. The sinus cavity will be open and clean, allowing you to breathe easily again. With balloon sinuplasty, you can enjoy smelling, tasting, sleeping, and avoiding sinus pressure and headaches.
We understand that when the pressure sets in, you canât enjoy all that life has to offer. You miss work, hobbies, and priceless time is taken away from friends and family. We work hard to restore your sinuses and help you avoid the risk of surgery and medications. Sinusitis relief is a top priority for the entire team at Capitol Breathe Free.
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Types Of Sinus Infections
During your visit with an ENT, its crucial to identify the potential causes of your sinus infections. Identifying the root of your health concerns helps the doctor design an optimal treatment plan to alleviate your pain.
Its common for sinus infections to be caused by a viral infection, which means that you can use at-home care for a few days. The symptoms will usually clear up in a week to 10 days, with over-the-counter remedies to help you stay comfortable.
Blocked, congested sinuses can also be the perfect breeding ground for the growth of bacteria. For example, there are times when it starts as a viral infection, then develops into a bacterial sinus infection.
Another potential cause of sinus discomfort is a fungal infection. Treatment for this type of condition may require different kinds of medication or surgery to clear up the infection.
Keep in mind that certain health conditions might contribute to the risk of sinus infections but dont cause the infections directly:
These health issues result in sinus blockages, which creates the conditions for an infection to form.