How Do Sinus Infections Start
Sinusitis occurs when the lining of the sinus or nasal cavity becomes inflamed. What can start as inflammation in your sinuses from a respiratory infection, allergies or environmental pollutants can spark a sinus infection when the lining of the sinuses becomes inflamed and swollen, causing mucus to become trapped and germs to grow.
“Once you have a cold or upper respiratory tract infection, that virus can then settle into the sinuses and cause inflammation as well,” said Dr. Mas Takashima, an otolaryngologist and chair of Houston Methodist ENT Specialists. “About 95% of sinusitis is caused by a virus making it much more common than bacterial sinusitis. Viral sinusitis is also much more infectious as well.”
Certain conditions, such as having allergies, asthma or a respiratory infection, can make people more susceptible to getting chronic sinus infections, and it is important that these patients be evaluated to address the cause and not just the sinusitis symptoms.
“There are many causes of chronic sinusitis. “Patients with a weakened immune system are more prone to getting recurrent acute sinusitis,” explains Dr. Takashima. “Sometimes, however, the issue may be anatomy, such as a deviated septum , scarring from previous sinus surgery, or nasal polyps, which result from chronic inflammation in the nose. Once the polyps get to a certain size, they rarely regress on their own and they narrow the sinus drainage pathways.”
Why Do I Get Sinus Infections So Often
Millions of Americans suffer bouts of sinusitis each year, with inflamed nasal passages and sinuses causing uncomfortable symptoms. In some cases, the misery continues despite attempts to treat the infection. Symptoms may also seem to get better, only to return.
In this blog, the ear, nose, and throat specialists at New York ENT explain why you might be getting a lot of sinus infections.
What Are Some Sinus Infection Causes
Sinus cavities are the empty areas around our eyes and nose. They help us to manage the air we breathe and help our ability to speak, breathe, and sing. Our sinus cavities are where our mucus is produced and where sinus infections occur.
The mucus in our sinus cavities trap things like mold, bacteria, viruses and dirt. When working correctly our mucus traps the foreign substances and our bodies drain it out so that it can not make us sick. Sometimes however, the trapped substances will cause our bodies to react with swelling and inflammation. The mucus then gets trapped due to the swelling and an infection develops.
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Routines To Avoid Getting Sinus Infections
Avoid over-exposure to household products
There are avoidance routines that you can carry out that may help prevent another sinus infection from reoccurring. Always try to avoid contact with cigarette and cigar smoke from people around you. Another way is avoiding common household products, like hairspray and cleaning products that give off fumes or strong odors. Fumes are known to be irritants to your sinuses and can make your sinus problems worse. You can also avoid exposure to very dry environments. If possible, try to avoid mass transportation, by bus, train and air. When traveling an enclosed area with many people, bacteria and viruses commonly spread and dry air increases the rate they enter your nose. Air travel can also cause significant pressure and blockage to your sinuses. Avoid extended periods of swimming pools with chlorine and activities such as diving if you are prone to sinusitis. Chlorine in the nose irritates the lining of the sinuses and nose. Diving may force water into the sinuses from the nasal passageways. These are some or the ways you can avoid the recurrence of sinus infections or from having the worsening of existing infections.
Over The Counter Medications
For help alleviating sinus pressure and pain, try ibuprofen and a decongestant. Some medications include a combination of pain reliever and decongestant.
Mild antihistamines like Claritin and Allegra are helpful in moderation. Strong antihistamines like Benadryl are often way too drying. Be careful not to take antihistamines too often.
Even though you want your nose to stop running, too many antihistamines can make it more likely that youll get sinus infections in the future.
Drugs like Mucinex and Flonase can also be helpful in thinning the mucus in your nose and sinuses.
If you use Afrin, make sure you stop after three days. Though it can seem like a miracle drug, using it more than three days in a row can lead to something called rebound congestion. In other words, when you stop using the Afrin after continuous use, your nose becomes more congested than it was in the first place!
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When Should I Call The Doctor About A Cold Or Sinus Infection
Most colds go away without medical treatment. If you have pain around your face or eyes, along with thick yellow or green nasal discharge for more than a week, check with your doctor. Also call them if you have fever or symptoms that are severe or don’t get better with over-the-counter treatments.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Chronic Sinus Infection
Chronic sinusitis emerges more insidiously than acute sinusitis. At times, however, the symptoms start suddenly and may resemble that of the common cold or acute sinusitis that just wont go away.
Chronic sinusitis is most likely if you have two or more of the following symptoms:
- Nasal congestion or stuffy nose
- Mucus and pus-like discharge
- Postnasal drip
- Facial pain, pressure around your eyes and nose, or fullness
- Partial or complete loss of your sense of smell
Chronic cough, sore throat, and fatigue may also be seen in a chronic sinus infection. That said, these symptoms are not required for the diagnosis of chronic rhinosinusitis.
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Excessive Inflammation Of The Nasal Passages
Contrary to what most people think, the sinuses consist of far more space than just the nasal passages and behind the cheekbones. There are four sets of sinuses located in the head, and all of these drain mucus through the nasal passages, which act as one of the bodys sinus exit points. Your throat also acts as a drain for the sinuses. This is why people with sinusitis often experience discomfort in the throat, resulting from post-nasal drip.
If the nasal passages become inflamed, they get stopped up and the body has a hard time draining all of that backed up, infected, and often thickened mucus. This exacerbates the sinus infection, causing it to settle in even more.
There are several things you can do to relieve and reverse swollen and sensitive sinus passages:
Dr. Hester may prescribe a corticosteroid nasal spray or even an oral steroid to provide more immediate and dramatic inflammation relief. These meds should be used as directed. NEVER use corticosteroid nasal sprays or oral steroids for longer than advised. You can wind up doing more harm than good. If the sinus symptoms persist, contact your doctor to schedule a follow-up appointment.
Overuse Of Nasal Products
While its true that nasal decongestant sprays relieve congestionthey constrict the blood vessels in the noseyou should avoid prolonged use of over-the-counter nasal sprays, as they can make your symptoms worse if not used as directed.
If you use sprays for an extended period of time, you can become less sensitive to their effects so that your nose becomes swollen again, a condition known as rebound nasal congestion, says Dr. Bains.
As a result, prolonged use of OTC nasal sprays can lead to dependency, adds Dr. Hueston, who recommends that people who use sprays to treat cold symptoms stop after four or five days.
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Sinus Trouble: Consider The Causes
Not only can seasonal allergies or chronic allergies impact the sinuses, but humid air can cause a clogged or stuffy feeling in the nose. An infectioneither brief or long-lastingcan also take hold.
Sinusitis ailments are not only a burden for allergy sufferers, they can be a challenge for doctors, too, especially as patients and doctors alike are on high alert for warning signs of a possible COVID-19 infection. Three of the most common causes of sinus symptoms are allergies, viral infections and bacterial infections. But these can be tough to tell apart because of overlapping symptoms.
What Are The Symptoms Of Sinusitis
When a sinus infection results from blocked sinuses, you can have symptoms like:
- Thick white, yellow or greenish discharge from the nose or drainage down the back of the throat
- Nasal obstruction or congestion
- Tenderness and swelling around the eyes, cheeks, nose and forehead
- A reduced sense of smell and taste
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Viral Vs Bacterial Sinus Infection
Viral Sinus Infection
Aside from causing common cold, viruses can cause inflammation in the sinuses. Symptoms like a runny nose and nasal congestion are some of the hallmarks of viruses which can further lead to inflammation of the sinuses. The discomfort from the illness reaches its peak usually on the fourth or fifth day and slowly begins to recede afterwards. It can take anywhere from a week to ten days for the above mentioned nasal symptoms to go away on their own. Improvement in patients with common cold can be seen after that, yet it might take them more time to return to normal.
Bacterial Sinus Infection
Bacterial sinus infection or bacterial sinusitis occurs when drainage of the fluid collected within the sinuses is hampered somehow. This is often observed in common cold which causes an overload of the fluid in the sinuses. Bacteria tend to thrive in the sinus pockets that are wet, moist and filled with fluid. The bacterial growth usually occurs after 10-day duration of the common cold.
Doctors are not able to differentiate between viral or bacterial sinusitis since the diagnosis for both of them is to check the symptoms like nasal congestion, headache, cough, thick post-nasal or nasal drainage, etc. In some cases, the help of other diagnostic tests like cultures or CT scans is taken to reach a definitive diagnosis.
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.
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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.
If You Are Exposed To Pollutants You Might Get Chronic Nasal And Sinus Inflammation
The environment that you live or work in may be contributing to frequent sinus infections, especially if you are exposed to pollutants on a regular basis.
Based on the findings from a 2017 study, researchers at Johns Hopkins found a connection between continuous exposure to pollution and chronic nasal and sinus tissue inflammation. This study was done on mice, though the consequences seen in the mice were said to mimic human chronic sinusitis. Previous studies, however, have found correlations between exposure to air pollution and blocked sinuses, which can lead to sinusitis.
If the symptoms of a sinus infection persist beyond 10 days, Daneshrad said you should seek the aid of a physician.
“If a course of antibiotics does not resolve the infection or if infections recur frequently, then you should be seen by a specialist to determine if there is a physical blockage of the sinuses,” he added.
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Why Do I Keep Getting Sinus Infections
Did you know that almost 12% of American adults suffer from recurring sinus infections? If your sinus infections just dont quit, you may have chronic sinusitis, a condition that occurs when your sinuses are inflamed for more than three months.
At Integrative Primary Care in Houston, board-certified internist Syed Farhat Zaidi, MD, has extensive experience helping patients who struggle with sinus infections. If you keep getting them, you might wonder why. In this blog, Dr. Zaidi explains what causes sinus infections and why you may be getting them over and over.
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.
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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.
Your Sinusitis Keeps Coming Back Because You Dont Have An Accurate Diagnosis
If the infection lasts longer than a couple of weeks or the pain is becoming unbearable, seek medical treatment immediately. Accurate diagnosis is key to treating sinusitis, especially when the infections return over and over again. You can treat allergies all you want, but a polyp, deviated septum, or other anatomical abnormalities in the nasal passages wont disappear without more expert treatment.
A comprehensive examination of the nose and sinus passages by a specialist is necessary to evaluate the correct diagnosis and cause of your symptoms. In some cases, what has been previously diagnosed as a sinus issue has, in fact, been caused by another issue. Identifying the correct diagnosis is the first step to feeling better.
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What Are The Causes Of Sinusitis
The sinuses are lined with membranes that produce mucus. When someone has a cold or allergies, the nasal passages as well as the sinus tissues become swollen and make more mucus. As a result, mucus that normally flows smoothly can get blocked and become trapped in the sinuses. It becomes a breeding ground where bacteria, viruses, and fungi can thrive, resulting in sinusitis.
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