Most people have experienced the congestion and pressure of sinusitis. It is a common experience of the cold and allergy seasons. Sinusitis is especially frustrating when your nose feels blocked but blowing is not productive.
There are several medical treatments available for sinusitis.
Should you make an appointment at the first sign of a sinus problem, or should you let your illness or allergies run their course?
What Is Sinusitis?
Sinusitis is an inflammation of the tissue of your nasal passages and sinuses. When these tissues swell, it can be hard to breathe, making you feel stuffed up.
It is also much harder for mucus to drain out of your sinuses, which can lead to a sinus infection. Common symptoms of sinusitis include:
- Headaches and facial pressure
- Post-nasal drip
Patients with sinusitis that develops into a sinus infection may also have a fever, thick mucus, and bad breath.
How Long Does Sinusitis Last?
Harvard Health notes that an episode of acute sinusitis can last for a few days to a few weeks depending on its cause. If you have inflamed nasal passages due to seasonal allergies, you may be dealing with symptoms throughout the season.
Patients with sinusitis from a viral infection like a cold may have the condition for four to ten days.
When to Seek Help for Acute, Recurring, and Chronic Sinusitis
Doctors make a distinction between types of sinusitis. Acute sinusitis is a single episode that can last up to four weeks. This type of sinusitis can usually be treated effectively by over-the-counter sinus medicines and will eventually go away on its own.
However, if your acute sinusitis lasts more than 10 days, a medical professional can offer suggestions for relief.
According to the National Institute of Health, recurring sinusitis involves a patient who experiences four rounds of sinusitis in a year with symptom-free breaks in between.
The recurring nature of the condition may point to a physical issue in the nasal passage such as narrow nasal passages, enlarged adenoids, nasal polyps or a deviated septum.
If you suffer several episodes of sinusitis in a year, it is a good idea to make an appointment with a doctor.
As stated by the Mayo Clinic, someone who has symptoms of sinusitis for 12 weeks or more is considered a chronic case. Chronic sinusitis is not only uncomfortable, but it can also lead to other health complications like recurring sinus infections.
People with chronic sinusitis are also more likely to miss work days due to the severity of their symptoms.
How a Doctor Can Help Acute Sinusitis
For an episode of acute sinusitis, the main concern is symptom relief. If you call your general practitioner, he or she may suggest options for self-care. First, if your sinusitis is from a cold virus, you need to get plenty of rest and ample fluids.
When the cold is gone, the swelling will decrease on its own. For more intense cases, home remedies include a neti pot or nasal lavage. Both of these techniques involve rinsing your nasal passages to keep them clear.
In a study published by the National Institute of Health, it was found that daily nasal irrigation was especially effective in helping children with acute sinusitis.
A hot, steamy shower or a humidifier can also provide some temporary relief.
If your acute sinusitis lasts for more than ten days, your doctor may want to do tests to make sure that you do not have a sinus infection. The doctor may prescribe nasal corticosteroids to reduce swelling. If there are signs of infection, you may receive a prescription for antibiotics.
Your doctor may also suggest allergy testing to see if that is the source of your illness.
A daily antihistamine may be all it takes to give you relief. For more severe allergies, immunotherapy is a helpful treatment.
Medical Help for Chronic Sinusitis
For recurring sinusitis or chronic sinusitis, a doctor will need to do more testing to determine the problem and the appropriate solution. It is important to resolve the underlying problem for your own comfort and long-term health.
Dr. Samuel Becker, a sinus expert from New Jersey, warns that untreated sinus problems can lead to secondary infections like meningitis, eye infections, and brain abscesses.
A sinus specialist will want to examine your nasal passages. The doctor will use a thin scope to see if there are any physical blockages to be corrected. From there, the doctor will suggest one of several treatments.
Most treatments for sinusitis are minimally invasive with a short recovery time.
- Steroids: Corticosteroids can reduce minor chronic tissue swelling. Some low-level inhaled steroids are available over-the-counter.
- Balloon Sinuplasty: This is a procedure done in the doctor’s office if there is not a physical blockage in the nasal passage. The doctor inflates a small balloon in the nasal passage which allows your sinuses to drain.
- Turbinate Surgery: Turbinates are bony structures covered in mucosal tissue inside the nose. They warm the air as you breathe through your nose. The surgeon will remove chronically enlarged tissue and possibly some bone.
- Septoplasty: Septoplasty is normally an outpatient procedure to correct a deviated septum, a condition where the dividing tissue between the nostrils blocks one of the nasal passages.
- Sinus Surgery: This is often an endoscopic procedure to remove polyps or other blockages from the sinuses allowing for better drainage.
Occasional bouts of sinusitis are a normal part of life. However, if sinusitis symptoms are affecting your quality of life, it is important to contact a medical professional. A sinus specialist can give you the relief you need to breathe easy.