How To Tell If You Have An Actual Sinus Infection
Even though we often say we have a sinus infection even if its just inflammation or an allergic response, there are symptoms of an actual infection that may be treatable with antibiotics. Nasal congestion and pain under the eyes or around the temples are, of course, main symptoms, but others include the loss of the sense of smell, green nasal discharge, mucus dripping down your throat, cough, fever, fatigue, sore throat, and even bad breath.
Sometimes, a sinus infection will clear up without intervention, but if you develop a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, have your symptoms for 10 or more days, notice that your symptoms are getting worse and are not improved by OTC medications, or you have multiple infections in a years time, you should seek medical treatment as soon as possible.
Lingering Sinus Infection Or Chronic Runny Nose
A lingering sinus infection is different from a chronic runny nose. Chronic runny nose typically comes from allergies or other irritants in the air. However, this can turn into an infection over time.
When the sinuses become infected, the allergies, irritants, or viral cold have caused swelling in the nose thats blocked the drainage pathways. Consequently, fluid and mucous accumulate in the sinuses, where it has become infected with bacteria.
If youve been sick more than 10 days and begin to experience other symptoms like facial pressure, headache, and fever, youre dealing with more than a chronic runny nose.
Accurate Sinus Diagnosis And Treatments Is Essential
The only way to stop recurring sinus infections once and for all is to have an evaluation by a specialist who has the specialized training and experience to accurately diagnose their cause. Once you have an accurate diagnosis, we can discuss the options. The goal is always to provide the patient with all the available options, discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each, and help you find the best treatment plan for you.
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You Have A Crooked Or Deviated Septum That Is Hindering Your Sinus Drainage Pathways
A crooked or deviated septum can cause a blockage of the sinus drainage pathway, which often results in an infection.
Dr. Payam Daneshrad, ENT specialist and facial plastic surgeon at Daneshrad Clinic, told INSIDER that although a course of antibiotics will treat the immediate infection until the underlying obstruction is surgically corrected, you’re at a higher risk of developing frequent sinus infections.
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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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
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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What Tests Diagnose The Cause Of Sinus Infections And Sinusitis
Sinus infection is most often diagnosed based on the history and examination of a doctor. Because plain X-ray studies of the sinuses may be misleading and procedures such as CT and MRI scans, which are much more sensitive in their ability to diagnose a sinus infection, are so expensive and not available in most doctors’ offices, most sinus infections are initially diagnosed and treated based on clinical findings on examination. These physical findings may include:
- redness and swelling of the nasal passages,
- purulent drainage from the nasal passages ,
- tenderness to percussion over the cheeks or forehead region of the sinuses, and
- swelling about the eyes and cheeks.
Occasionally, nasal secretions are examined for secreted cells that may help differentiate between infectious and allergic sinusitis. Infectious sinusitis may show specialized cells of infection while allergic sinusitis may show specialized white blood cells of allergy . Physicians prescribe antibiotics if the bacterial infection is suspected. Antibiotics are not effective against viral infections many physicians then treat the symptoms.
In addition, both rigid and flexible endoscopy has been used to obtain diagnostic material from sinuses. These procedures are usually done by an otolaryngologist under topical and local anesthesia. Occasionally, there may be a need to sedate the patient. Some investigators suggest that endoscopy specimens are comparable to those obtained by needle puncture.
How An Ent Treats A Sinus Infection
If you have a lingering sinus infection after antibiotics, an ENT doctor often elects to be more aggressive in treatment than a primary care physician. They may prescribe longer courses of antibiotics, stronger medications, or recommend a procedure to open the sinuses.
If you have persistent sinus problems, the sinuses must first be unblocked. Sometimes, thats done through a simple balloon sinuplasty and irrigation. Other times, unblocking the sinuses requires a more aggressive procedure like endoscopic sinus surgery. We opt for this procedure when the sinuses become so blocked, tissue and bone need to be removed to create a wider opening.
If youre dealing with a lingering sinus infection, dont let it progress to a more serious issue. Call your ENT so they can discover whats at the root of your problem and find a treatment to bring you relief.
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When To See A Doctor About A Sinus Infection
On the other hand, a secondary acute bacterial infection may develop, so it’s advised that you see a doctor if your symptoms last more than 10 days or if your symptoms initially improve but then worsen again within the first 7 days.
See a doctor immediately if you experience:
- A persistent fever higher than 102 degrees F
- Changes in vision, including double vision
- Symptoms that are not relieved with over-the-counter medicines
- Multiple infections within the past year
- Sudden, severe pain in the face or head
- Swelling or redness around the eyes
- Stiff neck
Related Conditions And Causes Of Sinus Infections
Colds, allergies, and sinus infections can cause similar symptoms, including stuffiness and headache. What’s more, both colds and allergies can cause sinus inflammation. So how can you tell the difference between these illnesses?
The truth is, even doctors can sometimes have difficulty differentiating among colds, allergies, and sinus infections. But the illnesses do present differently.
A hallmark sign that you have a sinus infection is that the illness is, as you’d expect, severely affecting your sinuses. Both colds and allergies can cause congestion and runny nose, but sinus infections typically cause an aching sensation and pressure in the face, including in the ears and teeth.
Additionally, postnasal drop, reduced sense of smell, and halitosis are typically associated with sinus infections.
The mucus associated with a sinus infection is usually green or yellow, though color alone isn’t enough to determine the cause of your nasal distress, as there are many reasons your nasal discharge may not be clear.
Both allergies and colds can cause sneezing, a symptom not typically seen in sinus infections. Allergies never cause fever, which is seen in both colds and sinus infections.
And if your symptoms last more than 10 days, you most likely don’t have a cold.
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What Are The Sinuses How Many Do We Have
A sinus is a hollow, air-filled cavity. For the purposes of this article, a sinus will refer to those hollow cavities that are in the skull and connected to the nasal airway by a narrow hole in the bone . Normally all sinuses are open to the nasal airway through an ostium. Humans have four pair of these cavities each referred to as the:
The four pairs of sinuses are often described as a unit and termed the “paranasal sinuses.” The cells of the inner lining of each sinus are mucus-secreting cells, epithelial cells, and some cells that are part of the immune system .
Functions of the sinuses include humidifying and warming inspired air, insulation of surrounding structures , increasing voice resonance, and as buffers against facial trauma. The sinuses decrease the weight of the skull. If the inflammation hinders the clearance of mucous or blocks the natural ostium, the inflammation may progress into a bacterial infection.
What Are Recurring Sinus Infections
Sinusitis is diagnosed in nearly 30 million Americans every year, making it one of the most common health conditions in the United States.
Struggling with frequent sinus infections is known as recurrent sinusitis. Recurrent sinusitis is defined by four or more acute infections in a year.
Untreated acute sinusitis further damages the mucous membranes, making you more vulnerable for another infection.
Allergens, a weakened immune system or structural abnormalities, such as a deviated septum, are also big contributors to recurrent infection.
Acute Sinusitis is temporary inflammation of the sinuses, usually either bacterial or viral, following a cold or allergies.
Swelling of mucous membranes causes congestion and prevents mucus drainage. This allows pressure to build in the face, causing pain, discomfort and inflammation in the sinuses.
In acute sinusitis, symptoms usually worsen, peak and eventually vanish. Acute infections last up to four weeks, subacute infections last four to 12 weeks, and chronic sinus infections last 12 weeks or longer.
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Will I Need To Make Lifestyle Changes To Deal With Sinus Infections
If you have indoor allergies it is recommended that you avoid triggersanimal dander and dust mites, for exampleas well as take medications. Smoking is never recommended, but if you do smoke, strongly consider a program to help you quit. Smoke can also trigger allergies and prevent removal of mucous by the nose. No special diet is required, but drinking extra fluids helps to thin nasal secretions.
Treatment For Sinus Infections
The type of treatment you will receive will depend on what type of sinus infection you have and how long youve had it.
If you have a bacterial sinus infection, your ENT doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics, which you will have to take for seven to ten days.
Nasal allergies in themselves cause sinus irritation, which can put you at a greater risk of developing an infection. If you have nasal allergies, your ENT specialist will likely give you nasal sprays to soothe the irritation. However, if you have severe inflammation, you may need to take oral steroids, possibly along with oral decongestants.
If your sinus infection doesnt respond to conservative interventions or is complicated by nasal polyps or structural problems, your ENT doctor may recommend surgery, possibly balloon sinuplasty a revolutionary, minimally invasive alternative to traditional sinus surgery. This type of endoscopic nasal surgery has been touted by experts for effectively addressing chronic or recurrent sinusitis.
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What Home Remedies Help Soothe Sinus Infection Or Sinusitis Symptoms
Sinus infections caused by viruses can use home treatments such as pain and fever medications , decongestants, and mucolytics. In addition, some health care professionals suggest nasal irrigation or a sinus rinse solution to help relieve symptoms of sinus infections, even chronic sinusitis symptoms. This irrigation is accomplished with a “Neti-Pot” or a sinus rinse kit . The last reference of this article shows a video of a sinus rinse procedure. In 2012, the FDA issued a warning about the use of Neti-Pots. The FDA cautions people not to use untreated tap water for rinsing, as contaminated tap water rinses lead to two deaths.
Bacterial and fungal sinus infections usually require antibiotic or antifungal therapy so home treatments without them are often not successful. However, some authors suggest home treatments may reduce symptoms after medical therapy has begun some healthcare professionals recommend nasal irrigation after sinus surgery.
How Sinus Infections Occur
Your sinuses are a connected system of hollow air spaces inside your skull. They are situated around your nose, cheeks, and forehead, and they are named after the bones that contain them and provide their structure. The sinuses produce mucusa stringy, slippery substance that keeps your nasal passages moist and acts as a protective barrier against dust, pathogens, and pollutants in the air you inhale.
Sinus infections occur when pathogens inflame and thicken your mucus membranes , blocking mucus drainage and causing it to build up. Mucus buildup makes the sinuses conducive to pathogen growth.
Viruses, especially those that cause the common cold, are the usual culprits in sinus infections. Only up to two percent of sinus infections are caused by bacteria, and these are often a complication of viral sinus infection. Fungal sinus infections are rare, and typically affect people who are immunocompromised.
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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.
How Is Sinusitis Diagnosed In A Child
The healthcare provider will ask about your childs symptoms and health history. He or she will give your child a physical exam. Your child may also have tests, such as:
Sinus X-rays. An X-ray exam of the sinuses may help with the diagnosis.
CT scan of the sinuses. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body. They are more detailed than X-rays.
Cultures from the sinuses. A swab of discharge from the nose may be taken. The sample is checked for bacteria or other germs.
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You Have Frequent Colds That Can Cause Bacterial Growth
If you spend most of the cold season blowing your nose, you might be one of the many people who get frequent sinus infections from the common cold.
Celebrity plastic surgeon and ear, nose, and throat specialist, Dr. Andrew Ordon told INSIDER that most acute cases of sinus infections are caused by bacterial growth that occurs due to a common cold, which causes sinus inflammation that can block nasal passages.
Why Are Sinuses Susceptible To Infection
Acute sinusitis often follows the cold virus. The reason for this is not usually the cold virus itself, but the inflammation caused by the cold virus.
More than 85% of people with colds suffer from inflammation in the sinus cavities. The inflammation and congestion caused by a cold will obstruct the sinuses, creating an environment in the sinus cavities hospitable for bacterial growth, as mucus will not drain and eliminate such pathogens as it would normally. Inflammation and congestion of nasal passages is known as rhinitis, and is such a common precursor to sinusitis that doctors often refer to many cases of sinusitis as rhinosinusitis.
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The Common Symptoms Of Sinusitis
The infection, inflammation, and blockage of your sinus cavities can lead to some discomfort symptoms. The main ones include:
It seems that some symptoms of sinusitis can reassemble with those of cold or allergies. Interestingly, colds and allergens can trigger the condition, as noted before.