What Causes Sinus Infections And Sinusitis
Causes of Acute Sinus Infections
- Acute sinusitis usually follows a viral infection in the upper respiratory tract, but allergy-causing substances or pollutants may also trigger acute sinusitis. A Viral infection damages the cells of the sinus lining, leading to inflammation. The lining thickens, obstructing the nasal passage. This passage connects to the sinuses. The obstruction disrupts the process that removes bacteria normally present in the nasal passages, and the bacteria begin to multiply and invade the lining of the sinus. This causes the symptoms of sinus infection. Allergens and pollutants produce a similar effect.
- Bacteria that normally cause acute sinusitis are Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, and Moraxella catarrhalis. These microorganisms, along with Staphylococcus aureus and some anaerobes , are involved in chronic sinusitis.
Causes of Chronic Sinus Infections
- Chronic sinus infections are caused by viruses, bacteria, allergens, pollutants, and fungal infections, especially people with diseases that weaken the immune system, for example, HIV/AIDS, leukemia and other cancers, and diabetes.
- Medications that are designed to modify the immune system may increase the risk of developing sinus infections.
- Ongoing bad breath unrelated to dental problems
People who have facial pain, headaches, and fever may indicate a sinus infection.
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Symptoms Of Sinus Infections
A feeling of heavy pressure, or facial pain is usually top on the list of sinus infection symptoms. Some docs disagree over sinus drainage and the color of the mucus, and incorrectly assess that if you have clear mucus you do not have a sinus infection, or that if you have a colored mucus it could only mean a sinus infection. Neither case is true as yellow or green mucus can also be associated with common cold viruses and clear mucus can cause just as much sinus pain and pressure as any color. The presence of a runny/stuffy nose, headache, facial pain, sinus pressure, fever, teeth pain, ear pressure, and bad breath can all be signs of a sinus infection.
If you want to try a decongestant, there are many on the market that you can try. We should note that decongestants are not suitable for children under the age of 4.
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What Are Complications Of Sinus Infection Or Sinusitis
While serious complications do not occur frequently, it is possible for a sinus infection to cause a direct extension of infection into the brain through a sinus wall, creating a life-threatening emergency .
In addition, other adjacent structures can become infected and develop problems, such as osteomyelitis of bones in the skull and infection around the eye . Rarely, these infections may cause death. The most susceptible individuals to complications are patients with suppressed immune systems, diabetes, and relatively rarely from multiple trauma injuries that may occur in natural disasters.
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Risk Factors For Sinusitis
The main risk factor for a sinus infection is having a cold or hay fever, which leads to inflammation and blockage in the sinuses.
Risk for sinusitis is also higher in those with a deviated septum or narrow sinus structure, which allows fluid to more easily get trapped.
If you have a medical condition such as cystic fibrosis or weakened immune system, you also are more likely to develop a sinus infection.
Sore Throat And Hoarse Voice
Postnasal drip can leave you with a raw and aching throat. Although it may start as an annoying tickle, it can get worse.
If your infection lasts for a few weeks or more, mucus can irritate and inflame your throat as it drips, resulting in a painful sore throat and hoarse voice. Frequent coughing and throat clearing can make a hoarse voice worse.
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How To Identify And Treat Sinus Infections
Lets talk about sinus. What often begins as a sniffle and a slightly blocked nose can quickly become an irritating drip down your throat and a literal pain in your head. Unfortunately, no amount of blowing your nose helps to clear it. Instead, your sinus passages continue to fill up, and the exterior of your nose gets irritated from all the rubbing and blowing.
Its not the only part of your body thats a little raw. If youre experiencing post-nasal drip, your throat will begin to hurt, and your voice can become hoarse. So how do you prevent sinusitis?
In this article, were going to explain what causes a sinus infection, how to identify and treat it, and when to seek help from a medical professional.
The Difference Between A Common Cold And A Sinus Infection
There is a large crossover between the symptoms of a cold and a sinus infection, making it confusing to self-diagnose. In both a cold and sinusitis, you might experience postnasal drip, low-grade fevers, headaches, fatigue, a cough, congestion, etc. Outside of the sinus pressure and green snot that is suggestive of sinusitis, the main difference is the recovery time.
Your cold should go away within 10 days, maximum. So, how long does a sinus infection last?
If you have a common cold that lasts longer than two weeks, you might actually have a sinus infection. Acute sinus infections can last up to four weeks. If your sinus infection lasts for more than 12 weeks without any relief, you should schedule an appointment to see your doctor.
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How To Diagnose A Sinus Infection
Sinus infection symptoms can be mistaken for an allergy or the common cold. Go through this article to know more about diagnosis of sinusitis.
Sinus infection symptoms can be mistaken for an allergy or the common cold. Go through this article to know more about diagnosis of sinusitis.
Sinus infection is a common condition in humans. Its symptoms are often confused with other medical conditions like an allergy or the common cold. Try to understand the characteristic symptoms of a sinus infection. However, self diagnosis and/or self medication is not advisable. You have to contact a specialist and get the condition diagnosed and treated.
Runny Nose And Postnasal Drip
When you have a sinus infection, you may need to blow your nose often because of nasal discharge, which can be cloudy, green, or yellow. This discharge comes from your infected sinuses and drains into your nasal passages.
The discharge may also bypass your nose and drain down the back of your throat. You may feel a tickle, an itch, or even a sore throat.
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What Is Considered A Real Fever
Your normal body temperature sits somewhere in the 97 to 99 range. If you have a temperature of 100.4 or higher, you have a low-grade fever. A temperature higher than 103 is considered high and requires immediate medical attention.
With acute sinusitis, youll typically only see a low-grade fever. Fevers are not commonly a symptom of chronic sinusitis.
To treat a low-grade fever, you can try:
- Over the counter painkillers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen
- Taking a warm bath
- Use cold compresses
What Happens If Sinus Infection Goes Untreated
Untreated sinus infections might seem like nothing to be concerned about. Sinusitis is often disregarded as being an inconvenience but nothing to worry about. While this is true if your infection is treated properly, there are some dangerous complications if it is left untreated including:
- Cyst-like mass formed when sinuses are unable to drain mucus
- Spread of infection to other parts of the body
- Sinus infection can spread to the eyes
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Symptoms Of A Sinus Infection:
- Green or yellow nasal mucus
- Cold symptoms last longer than 10 days
- Headache and/or sinus pressure
- Pain in the ears or teeth
- Worsening congestion
In the first few days, you might not be able to tell if your child has a head cold or a sinus infection. But pay attention to whether the child is getting better or if things progress so you know when to contact an ENT.
Which Specialties Of Doctors Treat Sinus Infections And Sinusitis
- Sinusitis is often first diagnosed by a general practitioner, primary care physician, or internal medicine physician. A pediatrician may diagnose sinus infections in children.
- If sinusitis is chronic or severe, you may be referred to an otolaryngologist, also called an ear, nose, and throat specialist . If your sinusitis is caused by allergies, you may be referred to an allergist.
- If you experience an emergency due to your sinusitis, go to the Emergency Department at the nearest hospital.
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How Can Sinus Infections Or Sinusitis Be Prevented
Prevention of a sinus infection depends upon its cause.
- Avoid contracting upper respiratory tract infections. Maintain strict hand washing habits and avoid people who are suffering from a cold or the flu.
- Obtaining the flu vaccination yearly will help to prevent the flu and subsequent infection of the upper respiratory tract.
- In some studies, zinc carbonate lozenges have been shown to reduce the duration of many cold symptoms.
- Stress reduction and a diet rich in antioxidants, especially fresh, dark-colored fruits and vegetables, may help strengthen the immune system.
- Plan for seasonal allergy attacks.
- If a sinus infection is caused by seasonal or environmental allergies, avoiding allergens is very important. If avoidance is not an option, either OTC or prescription medication may be helpful. OTC antihistamines or decongestant nasal sprays can be used for an acute attack.
- People who have seasonal allergies may benefit from nonsedating prescription antihistamines during allergy-season.
- Avoid spending long periods outdoors during allergy season. Close the windows to the house and use air conditioning to filter out allergens when possible. Humidifiers may also be helpful.
- Allergy shots, also called “immunotherapy,” may be effective in reducing or eliminating sinusitis due to allergies. An allergist administers shots regularly for 3 to 5 years, which often produces a reduction or complete remission of allergy symptoms for years.
What Is The Outlook For People With Fungal Sinusitis
With treatment, most noninvasive fungal sinus infections go away without serious complications. Some types of infection may come back after treatment.
Untreated, invasive fungal sinus infections can spread to the eyes and brain. They can lead to tissue loss, blindness and death.
Acute fulminant invasive fungal sinusitis is fatal about 50% of the time. This infection worsens very quickly, so its essential to get treatment as soon as possible. After treatment, some people have nerve damage, chronic pain or facial abnormalities due to lost tissue.
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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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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.
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Symptoms And Signs Of Sinusitis
Acute and chronic sinusitis cause similar symptoms and signs, including purulent rhinorrhea, pressure and pain in the face, nasal congestion and obstruction, hyposmia, halitosis, and productive cough . Often the pain is more severe in acute sinusitis. The area over the affected sinus may be tender, swollen, and erythematous.
Maxillary sinusitis causes pain in the maxillary area, toothache, and frontal headache.
Frontal sinusitis causes pain in the frontal area and frontal headache.
Ethmoid sinusitis causes pain behind and between the eyes, a frontal headache often described as splitting, periorbital cellulitis, and tearing.
Sphenoid sinusitis causes less well localized pain referred to the frontal or occipital area.
Malaise may be present. Fever and chills suggest an extension of the infection beyond the sinuses.
The nasal mucous membrane is red and turgescent yellow or green purulent rhinorrhea may be present. Seropurulent or mucopurulent exudate may be seen in the middle meatus with maxillary, anterior ethmoid, or frontal sinusitis and in the area medial to the middle turbinate with posterior ethmoid or sphenoid sinusitis.
Manifestations of complications include periorbital swelling and redness, proptosis, ophthalmoplegia, confusion or decreased level of consciousness, and severe headache.
Sinus Infections In Children Symptoms And Treatments
Its not unusual for small children to have runny noses, which is why parents find it helpful to always have a pack of pocket tissues on hand. The runny nose could be a sign of allergies, a head cold, or even playing outside in the cold weather.
But when a runny nose is paired with other symptoms, it could indicate that you need to schedule an appointment with an ENT.
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What Is A Fungus
A fungus is a living organism. It cant make its own food, so it takes its nutrients from decomposing matter in the soil, water or plants where it lives. Fungi live in the air, on surfaces, and on humans and other animals.
Scientists classify fungi in groups. They include mold, yeasts and mildew. Some fungi are big enough to see , and some are so small you can only see them with a microscope.
There are more than 100,000 species of fungi. They live all around us, and most arent dangerous. But some fungi can invade the body and multiply, leading to serious health problems. Different types of fungi cause infections in many parts of the body. Some examples are yeast infections, thrush and toenail fungal infections.
Research And Statistics: Who Gets Sinus Infections
Each year, acute sinusitis affects about 31 million Americans, who spend a whopping $1 billion on over-the-counter medications and $150 million on prescription medications to treat the illness, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology.
Epidemiologic studies suggest 5 to 12 percent of people have chronic sinus infections. However, research published in December 2018 in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology suggests this may be an overestimation due to misdiagnosis. According to the study, which relied on imaging tests for diagnosis , about 3.0 to 6.4 percent of people may have chronic sinus infections. 32786-6/fulltext” rel=”nofollow”> 5)
Untreated Sinus Infection Risks
Sinus infections often start to improve on their own after about 10 days. If your symptoms last longer without improving or if they worsen, a doctor may need to treat the underlying cause of the infection.
If a sinus infection affects a sinus cavity close to the brain, it can spread to the brain if left untreated. Though rare, an infection can also pass into the eye socket and cause vision changes or blindness. These types of infections are more common in kids.
While uncommon, a serious fungal sinus infection left untreated may pass into the bones.
Make an appointment with a doctor if you have severe symptoms, or if the following symptoms last longer than 10 days or keep coming back:
- facial pain
Because the cause of your sinus infection can affect your treatment options, its important to see a doctor for a diagnosis. The Healthline FindCare tool can provide options in your area if youre looking for a doctor.
If you believe you have chronic or recurring sinusitis, consider asking for a referral to an otolaryngologist, also known as an ear, nose, and throat specialist. You may need imaging and other tests to determine the cause of your symptoms.
An ENT specialist can take a culture of nose drainage to better understand the cause of an infection. The ENT specialist can also examine the sinuses more closely and look for any problem in the structure of the nasal passages that could lead to chronic sinus problems.