How Is Sinus Infection Diagnosed
Diagnosis depends on symptoms and requires an examination of the throat, nose and sinuses. Your allergist will look for:
- Discolored nasal discharge
- Bad Breath
If your sinus infection lasts longer than eight weeks, or if standard antibiotic treatment is not working, a sinus CT scan may help your allergist diagnose the problem. Your allergist may examine your nose or sinus openings. The exam uses a long, thin, flexible tube with a tiny camera and a light at one end that is inserted through the nose. It is not painful. Your allergist may give you a light anesthetic nasal spray to make you more comfortable.
Mucus cultures: If your sinus infection is chronic or has not improved after several rounds of antibiotics, a mucus culture may help to determine what is causing the infection. Most mucus samples are taken from the nose. However, it is sometimes necessary to get mucus directly from the sinuses.
Knowing what kind of bacteria is causing the infection can lead to more effective antibiotic therapy. A fungus could also cause your sinus infection. Confirming the presence of fungus is important. Fungal sinus infection needs to be treated with antifungal agents, rather than antibiotics. In addition, some forms of fungal sinus infection allergic fungal sinus infection, for example do not respond to antifungal agents and often require the use of oral steroids.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Sinus Infection Versus A Cold
While the symptoms may be similarrunny nose, headache, fatiguethere are some differences between the two conditions that can help you determine which one you have.
The main difference between the symptoms of a cold and a sinus infection is how long they linger. Bhattacharyya says cold sufferers typically have a runny nose for two to three days, followed by a stuffy nose for two to three days. After that, most people begin to feel better. The CDC notes that the following symptoms are common with colds:
- Bad breath.
Another potentially helpful sign is the color of your nasal discharge. Unlike colds, which generally produce clear mucus, bacterial infections can produce greenish or yellow mucus. However, viruses sometimes produce colorful discharge as well, so this isnt considered a fail-safe test.
Bhattacharyya says there is no rhyme or reason as to why some people tend to develop sinus infections and others dont. But some people have nasal polyps or other problems, including allergies, which can increase their risk of chronic sinus infections.
Severe Pain And Pressure
Fluids trapped in the sinuses can fill the sinus cavities and cause severe pain and pressure. The sinuses may feel tender to the touch. You may feel the need to sneeze without being able to. The pain may be in the cheeks, around the eyes and nose, or in the forehead because the sinuses are located in these areas. Bending over can make the pain worse.
Sometimes the pressure and pain are severe enough to interfere with sleep. Sinusitis can also cause the tissue in the nose to swell.
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Chronic Sinus Infection Treatment
Chronic sinus infections typically have a more mysterious cause than acute infections people with chronic sinus infections often require life-long treatment to keep symptoms at bay.
In addition to the options above, treatment for chronic sinus infections may include:
- Lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking and changing home or work conditions to reduce exposure to environmental toxins and allergens, such as dust mites, pet dander, or cockroaches
- Oral steroids
- Leukotriene modifiers, which reduce inflammation through a different mechanism than steroids
- Surgery to reopen sinuses affected by issues like nasal polyps and deviated septum
Recent research suggests other treatment options may also exist for chronic sinus infections, including:
- Nasal probiotics of the beneficial bacteria lactobacilli
- The drug dupilumab, derived from a human antibody, which the Food and Drug Administration approved to treat chronic sinus infections with nasal polyps in 2019
- A regime combining oral and intranasal corticosteroid irrigations
How Do You Treat Chronic Sinusitis
If these symptoms persist for longer than 3 weeks and/or pop up at least 4 times a year, then you could have chronic sinusitis. Treatments for chronic sinusitis are more extensive than antibiotics, but they treat the source of the problem.
For example, you may have a deviated septum causing chronic sinusitis. Once the deviated septum is fixed, the sinusitis length and frequency will reduce. And thats just one example of an underlying condition.
At the Ear, Nose and Throat Institute, our experts will diagnose and treat with the most up-to-date technology. One of those technologies is balloon sinuplasty, a non-invasive procedure that opens up the sinus passages, allowing for better mucus flow. Watch the video below to learn more.
If youre seeing these signs of a sinus infection in your experience, maybe its time to get it taken care of for good. To schedule an appointment, call 770-740-1860 or fill out the form at the top of the page.
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Which Home Remedies And Otc Medications Soothe Sinus Infections And Sinusitis Symptoms And Headache Pain
Home care can help relieve sinus infection or sinusitis symptoms, open the sinuses, and alleviate dryness.
Home Remedies to Promote Drainage
- Drink plenty of water and hydrating beverages such as hot tea.
- Inhale steam two to four times per day by leaning over a bowl of hot water or using a steam vaporizer. Inhale the steam for about 10 minutes. Taking a hot, steamy shower may also work. Mentholated preparations, such as Vicks Vapo-Rub, can be added to the water or vaporizer to aid in opening the passageways.
OTC Medications to Thin Mucus
Expectorants are medications that help expel mucus from the lungs and respiratory passages. They help thin mucous secretions, enhancing drainage from the sinuses. The most common is guaifenesin . OTC sinus medications also can combine decongestants and cough suppressants to reduce symptoms and eliminate the need for the use of many prescription medications. Read label ingredients to find the right combination of ingredients or ask the pharmacist.
OTC Medications to Relieve Pain
Pain medication such as ibuprofen and naproxen can reduce pain and inflammation. These medications help to open the airways by reducing swelling. Acetaminophen can be used for pain and fever but does not help with inflammation.
Nasal Saline Irrigation
There are several methods of nasal irrigation, and a popular sinus remedy is the Neti-pot, a ceramic pot that looks like a cross between a small teapot and Aladdin’s magic lamp.
When To Contact A Medical Professional
- Your symptoms last longer than 10 to 14 days or you have a cold that gets worse after 7 days.
- You have a severe headache that is not relieved by over-the-counter pain medicine.
- You have a fever.
- You still have symptoms after taking all of your antibiotics properly.
- You have any changes in your vision during a sinus infection.
A green or yellow discharge does not mean that you definitely have a sinus infection or need antibiotics.
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Facial Pain Or Pressure
Another possible sign of a sinus infection: facial pain. “Sinus infections can cause a feeling of pressure, squeezing, or congestion in the cheeks, between the eyes, or in the forehead,” says Dr. Gudis. You may notice that the pressure worsens when you lean forward, like to do something like tie your shoes, he says.
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!
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Types Of Chronic Sinusitis Or Chronic Sinus Infections
While acute sinusitis often involves an infection, chronic sinusitis does not. Sometimes, the long-term illness is caused by an infection that hasn’t cleared up properly, but most often the exact cause of chronic sinusitis isn’t known.
But clinicians may categorize chronic sinusitis into one of three types depending on the features present.
The most common type of the illness, chronic sinusitis without nasal polyposis, involves swelling and inflammation of the mucous membranes by various non-polyp factors, such as allergies or irritation and infections.
Chronic sinusitis with nasal polyposis, on the other hand, involves nasal polyps that are large enough to clog the sinus. It’s not always clear why some people develop these polyps and others dont.
In chronic sinusitis with fungal allergy, people experience a strong allergic reaction to fungi in the air, which causes their mucous membranes to produce a thick, dense mucus.
How To Prevent A Cold From Turning Into A Sinus Infection
Recovering from a cold can leave you feeling frustrated, and the last thing you would want is the added worry of it turning into a sinus infection. This is because colds can weaken your immune system, making it easier for the sinus infection to take hold. To reduce the likelihood of your cold turning into a sinus infection, or to prevent a sinus infection, it is important to be proactive. Some tips include: 7,8
Keeping clean: avoid infections by keeping your hands clean. Do not touch your face unnecessarily and with unwashed hands
Avoid allergens: the last thing youd want is your allergies to flare up while you are having a cold. To ensure your cold is not aggravated, stay home, avoid allergy triggers, and allow yourself time to fully recover.
Avoiding pollutants: anyone can develop a sinus infection. However, those who suffer from allergies such as hay fever, and those who smoke or are in constant exposure to air pollutants like cigarette smoke, are more prone to experiencing irritation and inflammation in their lungs and nasal passageways.
Visiting the doctor if necessary: If your cold symptoms continue or worsen or you notice the signs of an infection beginning in your sinuses, consider a visit to the doctor. Your doctor may be able to prescribe medications or other treatments to prevent or treat the infection.
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Diagnosis Of Sinus Infection
To diagnose if you have a sinus infection, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and their timeframe, and give you a physical exam.
This exam may include looking in the nose for signs of polyps, conducting a transillumination test to identify inflammation, and tapping the sinus area to detect infections.
If you have a chronic sinus infection, your doctor may conduct additional tests, including:
- Rhinoscopy or nasal endoscopy to inspect your sinuses and see if your membranes are inflamed
- Mucus cultures to determine what is specifically causing your infection
- Allergy tests to determine what allergens may be triggering your chronic or recurrent infections
- CT scan to identify sinus abnormalities, such as polyps or a deviated septum
- MRI scan to see if you have a nasal tumor or fungal infection
If you have a serious fungal sinus infection, your doctor may order a bone biopsy to see if the infection has penetrated your bones.
How A Sinus Infection Is Diagnosed
The diagnosis of a sinus infection is usually based on symptoms and a physical exam. If your symptoms don’t improve with treatment, you may need X-rays or a CT scan. Sometimes a sample of sinus fluid may be taken for microscopic exam and culture .
Though not all sinus infections require treatment, early diagnosis and treatment can help you feel better sooner and potentially prevent the infection from progressing.
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Doctors Say It’s Ok To Wait Before Treating Kids’ Sinus Infections
Sinusitis gets diagnosed 30 million times a year, and with the infections accounting for 20 percent of all antibiotic prescriptions, the ENTs see this as a chance to reduce overprescribing.
They’re going further than their previous guidelines in saying that even if you’re really sick, it’s OK to wait on the meds. And they’re breaking ranks with their fellow physicians in infectious disease and internal medicine, who say everyone with a bacterial infection should get an antibiotic.
“We’re not saying you’re wrong to do it,” Rosenfeld says. “We’re saying, you know, there’s a good chance you’re going to get better on your own.”
So then what to do while you’re feeling like your head is going to explode?
Saline nose washes get a big thumbs up from the ENTs, as do as over-the-counter pain medications. The saline washes out mucus and reduces stuffiness, and also improves the health of membranes, Rosenfeld says.
Steroid nose sprays may help with inflammation, the guidelines say, especially for people with chronic sinusitis, which lasts more than three months.
Chronic sinusitis shouldn’t be diagnosed just on symptoms, the guidelines say a doctor needs to document there’s inflammation of the nose and sinuses, something that can be done by looking up the nose with various scopes.
“You can diagnose acute sinusitis from your armchair at home,” Rosenfeld says. “But you can’t diagnose chronic sinusitis.” For that, at least, you need that doctor.
Clarification April 2, 2015
What Is The Function Of The Sinuses
The human skull contains four major pairs of hollow air-filled cavities called sinuses. These are connected to the space between the nostrils and the nasal passage . Sinuses help insulate the skull, reduce its weight, and allow the voice to resonate within it. The four major pairs of sinuses are:
The sinuses contain defenses against viruses and bacteria . The sinuses are covered with a mucous layer and cells that contain tiny hairs on their surface that help trap and propel bacteria and pollutants outward.
Acute sinusitis typically lasts less than eight weeks or occurs no more than three times per year with each episode lasting no longer than 10 days. Medications are generally effective against acute sinusitis. Successful treatment counteracts damage done to the mucous lining of the sinuses and surrounding bone of the skull.
Chronic or recurring sinusitis lasts longer than eight weeks or occurs more than four times per year, with symptoms usually lasting more than 20 days.
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What Is A Sinus Infection
A sinus infection, medically known as sinusitis or rhinosinusitis, occurs when your nasal cavities become infected, swollen, and inflamed. Fluid buildup in the sinuses can cause germs to grow, leading to a sinus infection.
Sinusitis is usually caused by a virus and often lasts even after other upper respiratory symptoms are gone. In some cases, bacteria or, rarely, fungus may cause a sinus infection.
Cleaning Inside Your Nose
You can clean the inside of your nose using either a home-made salt water solution or a solution made with sachets of ingredients bought from a pharmacy.
To make the solution at home, mix a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda into a pint of boiled water that has been left to cool. To rinse your nose:
- wash and dry your hands
- stand over a sink, cup the palm of one hand and pour a small amount of the solution into it
- sniff the water into one nostril at a time
Repeat these steps until your nose feels more comfortable . You should make a fresh solution each day. Don’t re-use a solution made the day before.
Special devices you can use instead of your hand are also available for pharmacies. If you choose to use one of these, make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions about using and cleaning it.
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Testing And Diagnosing A Sinus Infection
During the first part of your appointment, the ENT specialist will ask you to fill out paperwork and request information about your health history. Share important details about your symptoms, including the length of time youve had symptoms and whether they are getting worse.
Next, the doctor will look in your nose using an otoscope. If a sinus infection is present, you likely have signs of congestion, swelling, and irritation.
This examination is usually enough for the doctor to determine that you have an infection for common sinus infections.
When chronic sinus problems are being diagnosed, then your doctor might suggest other outpatient testing procedures. For example, you might need a nasal endoscopy, a flexible device with a small camera inserted through the nose.
Additional testing methods might include a CT scan or swabbing to test for the presence of bacteria or fungi.
Can I Prevent Sinusitis
There is no sure-fire way to prevent sinusitis. But there are some things that might help.
- Donât smoke, and avoid other people’s smoke.
- Wash your hands often, especially during cold and flu season, and try not to touch your face.
- Stay away from things you know youâre allergic to. Talk to your doctor to see if you need prescription medicines, allergy shots, or other forms of immunotherapy.
If your sinus problems keep coming back, ask your doctor about the pros and cons of surgery to clean and drain the sinuses.
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Complications Of Sinus Infection
Sinus inflammation can spread to the bones and soft tissues of the face and eyes. This can cause:
- Cellulitis of the face or around the eyes
- Abscesses of the eyes
Left intreated, sinus infections can also lead to serious intracranial complications, including blood clots within the cavernous sinus, pus between the skulls and dura mater , and meningitis.