Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinus cavities most often caused by a bacterial infection following a viral upper respiratory infection. There are several sinus cavities and are located in the forehead, within the cheekbones, around the eyes and behind the nose. Under normal conditions, mucus is produced in the sinus cavities and drains into the nasal passages. It's all about plumbing... if there is a blockage in any part of the sinus passages, the normal flow of mucus will stop and mucus will accumulate inside the sinus cavities, ultimately causing an infection.
People who have allergic rhinitis (allergies causing inflammation in the nose) are more likely to have sinusitis. Acute sinusitis are symptoms including nasal congestion, thick nasal discharge, postnasal drip, cough, headache, dental pain and altered taste or smell lasting less than four weeks. Most often, the infection is caused by a virus, the common cold. If the upper airways are already swollen or inflamed from chronic allergies, an infection may occur. Symptoms usually resolve in a week to ten days but sometimes a secondary bacterial infection develops requiring antibiotics to clear the infection. Chronic sinusitis is an infection of the sinus cavities with symptoms lasting more than 8 weeks.
Symptoms of chronic sinusitis:
• Persistent cough
• Altered taste or smell
• Nasal congestion or sore throat
Treatment of acute or chronic sinusitis involves a thorough history and physical exam with focus on abnormalities of the nasal passages that may contribute to the development of the infection. A CT scan or MRI of the sinuses may be necessary to see if there are any structural problems such as polyps or changes in the anatomy of the nose and locate the infection in the sinus cavities. Allergy skin testing is suggested to evaluate if allergies are causing swelling in the nasal passages predisposing the condition for infection. If allergies are part of the cause, a comprehensive treatment plan will be discussed to include medical therapy (nasal saline sprays or rinses, intranasal steroid sprays, decongestants and antibiotics) and possible allergy shots to prevent and stop the cycle of chronic swelling and inflammation from underlying allergic triggers.