Sinusitis can be defined as the swelling or inflammation of the tissue lining of the sinuses (a connected system of hollow cavities in the skull). When sinuses become blocked due to fluid or viral or bacterial germs, they get infected.
There are different kinds of sinusitis – acute sinusitis, subacute sinusitis, chronic sinusitis and recurrent sinusitis.
The most obvious signs of sinusitis may include:
- Cough and congestion
- Nasal discharge
- Loss of smell
- Nasal stuffiness
- Facial pain
Additional symptoms may include:
- Dental pain
- Bad breath
The following risk factors may increase your chance of getting any type of sinusitis:
- Existing medical conditions such as cystic fibrosis, immune system disorders or GERD
- Hay fever or other allergic conditions
- Abnormality of any kind in the nasal cavity
- Regular exposure to pollutants
How is allergy a risk factor for developing sinusitis?
Allergy can cause chronic inflammation of the sinus and mucus linings. This inflammation prevents the usual clearance of bacteria from the sinus cavity, increasing the chances of developing secondary bacterial sinusitis. If you test positive for allergies, your doctor can advise on appropriate measures and/or prescribe medications to control them, thereby reducing the risk of developing a sinus infection. People with sinus problems and allergies should avoid environmental irritants such as tobacco, smoke and odors, which may increase symptoms.
Sinusitis versus rhinitis
Although many symptoms are similar, it is important that sinusitis is not mistaken for rhinitis. Rhinitis is an inflammation of the mucus membrane of the nose, not the paranasal sinuses. It is often caused by allergies, increased sensitivity to irritants such as smoke, temperature changes or the overuse of decongestant nasal sprays. Poorly controlled rhinitis can, however, lead to sinusitis.
The diagnosis for sinusitis may comprise the following:
- Basic physical exam - this will include the thorough examining of the throat and nose.
- Nasal Endoscopy
- Xray of Sinuses
- CT and MRI scans
- Allergy tests
While a lot of cases of sinusitis can be cured by basic viral medication for the common cold and flu, for more severe cases, your doctor may suggest the following symptom-relieving remedies:
- Nasal spray
- Nasal corticosteroids
- OTC pain relievers
- Antifungal medication
- Surgery - in patients with persistent disease, despite adequate medical treatment, surgical removal of disease tissue, polyps and/or drainage of sinuses may be required