The Importance Of Properly Diagnosing Sinus Issues
While its easy to believe that properly diagnosing sinus problems is crucial to creating effective treatments, it can sometimes be more complicated than you might think to generate the right diagnosis. According to a study done at the University of Georgia, improper diagnosis of sinusitis and other sinus-related infections is a leading cause of wrongful prescription of antibiotics.
Lets take a brief look at why diagnostics are so important when it comes to your sinuses, as well as how the state-of-the-art tests performed by the specialists at South Florida Sinus and Allergy Center are providing incredibly accurate diagnoses and effective treatments for all our patients.
Ways To Recognize Serious Signs Of Sinus Infections
The length of the infection is an important determinant of the seriousness of the infection.
I usually consider most infections less than 3 weeks to be viral or inflammation related to congestion. At this point, the best treatment is usually medications that decrease the congestion and inflammation. This in turn will alleviate the symptoms and ultimately cure the illness.
When the illness continues beyond 3 weeks, bacterial infection can begin to develop. Though antibiotics can be considered at this point, other treatments may still be the best answer if they have not yet been given a try.
#2: Mucous Color
I will dispel a myth right here and now. Yellowish/greenish mucous does not necessarily mean the infection is bacterial.
Viruses can cause the same color mucous. The reason for the mucous is generally not the actual bacteria or virus, but the bodys immune response to the intruder.
So dont worry just because you see a colored mucous when you blow your nose. This will also improve as the infection abates.
#3: Sinus Pain
Sinus pain can occur anytime throughout a sinus infection. This is normal and means there is inflammation in the sinuses, as we discussed previously.
However, severe pain, redness over the skin, hardened skin over the sinuses, or even a severe headache are not generally normal and can indicate a bacterial infection.
A fever can be caused by both viruses and bacteria. So how do you differentiate between the two?
Types Of Sinus Infections: Chronic Vs Acute
There are four types of sinus infections. These classifications depend on the length and frequency of the infection:
- Acute sinusitis.This type of sinus infection lasts only for a short time, defined by the American Academy of Otolaryngology as less than 4 weeks. This short-term infection is usually part of a cold or other respiratory illness. It may also be caused by a bacterial infection .
- Subacute sinusitis. A subacute sinus infection lasts between 4 and 12 weeks .
- Recurrent acute sinusitis. An acute sinus infection is considered recurrent if the infection returns four or more times within a year, with each infection lasting 7 days or more.
- Chronic sinusitis.Chronic sinus infections last for more than 12 weeks or continue to recur.
Many sinus infection symptoms are common in both acute and chronic forms. Seeing a doctor is the best way to learn if you have an infection, find the cause, and get treatment.
For cases of acute bacterial sinus infections, these symptoms last at least 10 days without improving, or they worsen within 10 days after seeming to improve. In this case, its important to talk with a doctor, such as a general practitioner or an ear, nose, and throat doctor , to get a diagnosis and treatment plan.
Learn more about the symptoms of a sinus infection below.
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Prevention Of Sinus Infection
A sinus infection is not exactly contagious. But depending on what caused a person’s inflammation, other people may also develop the illness. For example, the common cold and flu are both contagious conditions that can lead to a sinus infection.
Taking steps to reduce your risk of contracting viral infections can help prevent sinus infections. These include:
- Practice good hygiene, such as by washing your hands often and covering your mouth when you cough and sneeze
- Get the recommended vaccinations, such as the flu vaccine and pneumococcal vaccine
- Keep your distance from people who have upper respiratory infections
- Take steps to reduce your stress, which affects your immune system
- Keep your immune system healthy, such as by eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables
Other ways to reduce your risk of getting a sinus infection include:
- Dont smoke cigarettes and try to avoid inhaling secondhand smoke
- Minimize your exposure to allergens and pollutants, such as by keeping your home windows closed and using a HEPA air conditioner filter, driving with your external vents closed and air conditioner on, and avoiding activities that expose you to pollen like lawn mowing and leaf blowing
- Moisten the air at home with a humidifier and avoid dry environments
- Inhale steam or use a saline nasal spray regularly
- Drink lots of water
- Irrigate your nasal passages regularly
This Is When To See A Doctor For A Sinus Infection
Also known as sinusitis, sinus infections are common as Autumn closes in. In the United States of America, there are about 28.9 million adults who experienced sinusitis. Although they are common, most people dont know when to see a doctor for a sinus infection.
Here is a guide to answer when to see a doctor. Read on to learn more about sinus infections, symptoms, and possible treatments.
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Which Types Of Doctors Treat Sinusitis And Sinus Infections
- Many sinus infections can be treated by your primary care physician or an Internal Medicine doctor.
- However, it is not unusual to consult an ENT specialist,
- Infectious disease specialist,
- Allergist or Immunologist.
Symptoms And Treatment For Viral Vs Bacterial Sinusitis
Weve all experienced the common cold symptoms of a runny nose, nasal congestion, and sinus pressure. But sometimes these symptoms can indicate something different: sinusitis, or a sinus infection. Sinusitis can be viral or bacterial. Knowing which one you have can be helpful for treating sinus infection symptoms and helping ensure you feel better fast.
In this article, I will describe the symptoms of both viral and bacterial sinusitis. I will also talk about the causes of each, how theyre diagnosed, and what your treatment options are.
How Do Doctors Diagnose Sinus Infections
Unfortunately, no matter the approach, diagnosing sinusitis can be difficult for doctors. This complication stems from the fact that not all sinus infections result from bacteria. Some sinus infections are the consequence of fungi or viruses. Other times, a sinus problem can be the product of nasal polyps, a deviated septum, allergies, or other medical conditions unrelated to bacterial intrusion. If he or she is unable to distinguish between bacterial, viral, and other causes, a doctor may end up misdiagnosing the ailment. When this misdiagnosis combines with patient expectations, doctors could end up prescribing medications that offer no benefits for the patients condition. Moreover, these improperly prescribed medications could worsen the patients situation.
Types Of Viral Sinus Infection
A viral sinus infection is most often caused by a common cold, which can infect the lining of the ear, nose, and throat, and inflame the sinuses. There are more than a hundred different viruses that cause colds, the most common of which are rhinoviruses. Some other viruses that can cause sinus infections can include influenza viruses and parainfluenza viruses. Viruses, especially cold viruses, can change the mucus in the nose and cause nasal tissues to swell, blocking the sinuses.
I Keep Tabs On My Symptoms
Jonathan Overdevest, MD, assistant professor of rhinology and skull base surgery at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York, lets time call the shots on how best to treat his sinus infections.
“We all want to find ways to minimize the impact of our symptoms and introduce treatments that will expedite our recovery,” he says. “The challenge lies in knowing what symptoms need higher level care and those that will improve on their own.”
Time becomes an important distinguishing factor in knowing what symptoms may require escalated treatment.
“In general, any perceived sinus infection that’s accompanied by severe symptoms persistently high fever, chills, changes in vision, unrelenting severe headache or outward alteration of appearance would require more urgent physical evaluation,” he says.
For less severe situations, monitor your symptoms to identify whether they’ve persisted for more than a week or were bad, then initially improved, only to get worse again over a period of seven to 10 days. If either of these scenarios holds true, you’re more likely to have an acute bacterial sinus infection that would benefit from a course of antibiotics.
Can Sinus Infections Or Sinusitis Be Prevented
Currently, there are no vaccines designed specifically against infectious sinusitis or sinus infections. However, there are vaccines against viruses and bacteria that may cause some infectious sinusitis. Vaccination against pathogens known to cause infectious sinusitis may indirectly reduce or prevent the chance of getting the disease however, no specific studies support this assumption. Fungal vaccines against sinusitis are not available, currently.
If you are prone to recurrent bouts of a “yearly sinus infection” it may be important to consider allergy testing to see if this is the underlying cause of the recurring problem. Treatment of the allergy may prevent secondary bacterial sinus infections. In addition, sinus infections may be due to other problems such as nasal polyps, tumors, or diseases that obstruct normal mucus flow. Treatment of these underlying causes may prevent recurrent sinus infections.
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How Can You Tell If You Have An Acute Sinus Infection
Its tempting to label every nasal issue as a sinus infection, but thats not always the case. Common symptoms of acute sinusitis include:
- Headaches and sometimes, toothaches
Many people believe that green snot means you have a bacterial sinus infection, curable only with antibiotics. Not true. Sage-colored mucus is common with viral infections and allergies and can happen when snot sits in your face for a while before being expelled.
A trip to your doctor may be necessary if you have a bacterial infection, but it can often be difficult to distinguish between that and a viral infection. If your symptoms last longer than 10 days or improve before worsening again, call your HCP.
If you suddenly experience any of these symptoms, its a sign to seek medical attention immediately, even if theyve been present for fewer than seven days:
- Abrupt vision changes
- Continual high fever
When You Should See A Doctors For A Sinus Infection
When is it time to visit the doctor? Any time youre having problems with your sinuses that are affecting your day-to-day life. We want to create an individual treatment plan to provide reliefparticularly if medication isnt making the situation much better.
A visit to the doctor is particularly important if:
You have chronic sinus problems throughout the year.
Your sinus issues keep you from doing the things that you enjoy.
You develop frequent sinus infections that require antibiotic treatment.
Youve found that over-the-counter medication doesnt relieve your symptoms.
What is the difference between a chronic and an acute sinus infection?
While the signs and symptoms of both chronic and acute sinusitis are very similar, chronic sinus infections last for at least 12 weeks.
During chronic sinusitis, the nasal passages remain swollen and inflamed despite several treatment attempts or use of over-the-counter medication. Acute sinusitis is a temporary infection that is most likely associated with a cold or virus.
If you have a chronic sinus infection, its time to schedule an appointment with one of our internal medicine physicians.
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When Does Antibiotic Resistance Occur
Antibiotic resistance occurs in a persons own body and within the community when certain drugs no longer work for a specific type of germ. This can occur when bacteria change in response to exposure to antibiotics so that the antibiotics no longer work efficiently against the bacteria.
Therefore, allergists and other specialists recommend limiting the use of antibiotics unless:
- Symptoms last over seven to 10 days
- Specific symptoms are present
How Do You Diagnose A Sinus Infection Bacterial
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When To See A Doctor
In contrast to viral infections, symptoms caused by bacteria usually last for long time-lapses . If this is the case, you should get a medical appointment for your doctor to prescribe you with sinus infection antibiotics. Only through medical assistance, patients can confirm whether if it is a viral or bacterial infection.
Severe sinusitis cases left untreated can become life-threatening conditions, for which they should be treated immediately by healthcare professionals.
To determine the cause of infection, your primary care doctor will need to run a sinus test. This procedure involves one, if not all, of the following practices:
- Otoscope Examination. Doctors perform an ear and nose examination in patients showing sinusitis symptoms. A medical device called âotoscopeâ is used during the examination.
- Nasal Endoscopy. A medical device will be inserted in your nose to help doctors look at your sinuses. Sedatives are usually applied to the nose while completing the medical evaluation.
- CT Scan. This test consists of an X-ray examination. It is usually designated to diagnose serious cases of sinus inflammation.
- Allergy Test. In some cases, the cause of inflammation or congestion is an allergic reaction. To discard a viral or bacterial infection, doctors should run an allergy test.
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Symptoms Of A Sinus Infection
One of the common sinusitis symptoms is headache that will be more concentrated on the forehead. Other symptoms include facial pain and pressure, especially in areas around the eyes. In some cases, the pain may radiate to the jawbone and even teeth. The affected person may also have post nasal drip, nasal congestion, cold and cough. The nasal discharge may have a yellow or greenish tinge. Even milky white nasal discharge is seen in some cases.
Some people may experience fever, sore throat, along with bad breath and swollen eyelids. The symptoms are found to be more severe in case of acute sinusitis. The nature and severity of sinusitis may vary with the type of sinusitis and the specific sinus cavity that is infected and inflamed.
Is Digital Imaging Necessary For Sinus Infection Diagnosis
In most cases, the examination and conversation with a doctor are sufficient to diagnose the infection and put together a treatment plan. For cases of acute sinus infection, it usually isnt necessary to have digital imaging.
But if the infections are recurring, the ENT will want to see what is happening with the structure within your sinuses. In this situation, you will likely need to have a digital scan, such as sinus x-rays or computerized tomography .
Primary care physicians can provide basic diagnostics and treatments for sinus infections. Patients are usually referred to an ENT for help with chronic or recurring sinus infections. If you need fluid samples for a lab culture, an endoscopy, or digital imaging, then our team of ENT specialists can offer these services in our office.
What Your Doctor Needs To Know
To find out if youâve got more than a bad cold, you need to learn the cause of your symptoms. Your doctor can help you figure out whether you have sinusitis or something else.
Tell your doctor how long youâve had sinus symptoms, and whether theyâve gotten worse or stayed the same. If youâve had them for less than 10 days and theyâre not getting worse, you probably have a viral infection. It will likely go away on its own.
Over-the-counter treatments like saline sprays, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen may help ease symptoms along the way. might reduce the swelling and inflammation temporarily. If you use them, read the directions carefully and only use as directed. Using nasal decongestant sprays for more than a few days could make the congestion worse.
Other Remedies For Symptom Relief
Staying hydrated can help thin mucus to ease congestion.
Drinking hot liquids such as tea and broth may help relieve your symptoms. Breathing in moist air may also help relieve the discomfort that comes with nasal congestion. Try breathing in steam from the shower, a bowl of hot water, or a mug of tea.
If your voice is hoarse, rest it by avoiding yelling, whispering, and singing.
Placing a warm compress over the inflamed area can help reduce pressure and provide relief.
damages the natural protective elements of your nose, mouth, throat, and respiratory system.
If you smoke, consider quitting. Ask a doctor if you need help or are interested in quitting. Quitting may help prevent future episodes of both acute and chronic sinusitis.
Wash your hands frequently, especially during cold and flu seasons, to keep your sinuses from becoming irritated or infected by viruses or bacteria on your hands.
Using a humidifier during the cooler, dryer months may also help prevent sinus infections.
Talk with a doctor to see if allergies are causing your sinusitis. If youre allergic to something that causes persistent sinus symptoms, you will likely need to treat your allergies to relieve your sinus infection.
You may need to seek an allergy specialist to determine the cause of the allergy. The specialist may suggest:
- avoiding the allergen
- doing allergic immunotherapy
Keeping your allergies under control can help prevent repeated episodes of sinusitis.
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