Sinus is medically referred to as rhinosinusitis. You get sinus when your nasal cavities get infected and become tender and swollen.
Sinusitis is caused by a virus. It often lingers even after the upper respiratory symptoms have disappeared. There are cases when the infection is caused by a bacteria or a fungus. However, this is quite rare. There are other conditions that might contribute to you getting a sinus infection. This includes infections on your teeth, allergies, and nasal polyps. All these might make sinus symptoms much worse.
Chronic vs. Acute
According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, sudden cases of sinusitis will only last for about four weeks. In most cases, it is caused by a respiratory disease or a cold. If you have prolonged sinus infections, it will last for about 12 weeks or more. Additionally, it might be recurring. According to experts, sinusitis is characterized by pain in the face, infected mucus and congestion.
There are a lot of shared symptoms between sudden and chronic sinusitis. The best thing is for you to consult a doctor if you suspect that you have an infection. It is the doctor who will diagnose you and let you know the causes of the infection and come up with a treatment plan.
Pain in Sinuses
You have multiple sinuses located above and below your eyes and also behind your nose. Any time you get an infection, one or several of these sinuses will hurt.
The pain that you feel is as a result of the irritation and engorgement of the sinuses. This might result in you feeling pain in your forehead, on both sides of your nose, on the upper part of your jaws and teeth and in between your eyes. This might cause you to develop a headache.
A sinus infection will result in you producing a lot of mucus that might be yellowish or green in color. This is a discharge that is draining from the infected sinuses into your nasal passage.
There are some instances where the discharge might not drain into your nose; rather it will drain into the back of your throat. Consequently, you might get a tingling or itchy sensation or even a painful throat. This is referred to as the postnasal drip and it can cause you to cough continuously at night when you lie down to sleep or in the morning when you are just getting up. It can even lead to you developing a gruff voice.
Since the infection causes your sinuses and your nasal passage to swell, it is quite likely that you will experience difficulty in breathing. You won’t possibly be able to breathe as you normally would or even taste food as usual. Your voice will have a ‘stuffy’ ring to it.
When you have a sinus headache, you will feel it on both sides of your head. This is because sinuses are located around your eyes, nose, forehead, and cheeks. You will feel the pain anywhere around where the sinuses are located. If you get sinuses headaches, it could be a sign that you have an ongoing sinusitis condition.
You can get seasonal sinus infections in case you have allergies or in case your sinuses get triggered by something specific. To treat the condition, you can opt to get a medical prescription, use herbs or go for over the counter medicines.
A Sinus Headache vs. a Migraine
The American Migraine Foundation states that 50% of migraine cases are misdiagnosed. A lot of these people think that they have a sinus headache. According to the Mayo Clinic, 90% of people who go to the hospital suspecting that they have a sinus headache end up finding out that what they have is actually a migraine.
In case you have a headache but you do not experience other symptoms that sinuses have, then you might actually have a migraine. Migraines are handled differently from sinus headaches. In case you have symptoms like feeling woozy, nauseated and you are sensitive to the light, it is likely that what you have is a migraine.
How to Prevent Sinus Headaches
In case you get recurrent sinus headaches as a result of having sinusitis or seasonal allergies, think about getting prescription medicine to help you keep the condition under control.
It’s also important that you change your lifestyle. For instance, stay away from allergens and do aerobic exercises. This might minimize cases of you getting sinus headaches.
In case of prolonged sinusitis, the best solution would be to undergo a surgical operation. This surgery is referred to as balloon sinuplasty. This will prevent you from getting more headaches.
What is Acute Frontal Sinusitis?
The frontal sinuses are two small air-filled holes that are situated just behind your eyes and close to your eyebrows. Together with six other paranasal sinuses, these holes produce light mucus that is drained into your nasal passages. In case too much mucus is produced or in case the frontal sinuses get swollen, then the mucus will not drain as it should. This results in a condition that is referred to as acute frontal sinusitis.
What Causes Acute Frontal Sinusitis
The reason behind acute frontal sinusitis is the mucus buildup that happens as a result of your sinuses getting swollen. There are a lot of factors that affect the quantity of mucus that is produced and the capacity of your frontal mucus to drain the sinuses.
- Viruses. The cold and flu virus is one of the major causes of acute frontal sinusitis. This is because cold and flu will result in you producing more mucus. This increases the chances of your sinuses getting swollen and clogged up.
- Bacteria. The sinonasal hole has lots of small hairs that are referred to as cilia. The work of these hairs is to prevent foreign bodies from getting into the sinuses. However, the cilia are not 100% effective and bacteria can still find its way into the nasal passage and into the sinuses. In most cases, a bacterial infection will soon come after a viral infection. The reason for this is that the mucus that is produced when one has a viral infection provides a good ground for bacteria to breed. Bacterial infections usually produce more intense symptoms of sinusitis.
- Nasal Polyps. Polyps are unusual growths that happen in your body. When polyps grow on your frontal nasal hole, they make it impossible for the sinuses to filter air and they cause lots of mucus buildup.
- Diverged Nasal Septum. In case you have a diverged nasal septum, it will be hard for you to breathe through both of your nostrils. This compromises air circulation and can result in the frontal sinuses becoming swollen.
Coughing and Throat Irritation
As the discharge from the sinuses drains down your throat, it can result in irritation. This is particularly if this happens for a prolonged period of time. This can lead to you having a consistent and irritating cough that gets worse whenever you lie down to sleep at night or when you get up in the morning from bed. This can make it hard for you to get a good night’s sleep. To reduce the intensity of a cough, consider sleeping in an upright position while using pillows for support.
A Sore Throat and Hoarse Voice
Having a postnasal drip can result in you getting a painful throat. At first, this might feel like a slight irritation, but it can worsen. In case you have the infection for a couple of weeks; it will lead to more mucus being produced, more irritation and pain in your throat. This will leave you with a swollen and painful throat.
When to See a Doctor
In case you experience fever, blocked nose, mucous and pain in your face that won’t ease off or keeps recurring a lot within 10 days, consult a doctor.
Generally, having a fever is not a sign that you have prolonged or sudden sinusitis, however, you cannot rule out this possibility. There might be an underlying problem that is triggering sinusitis. This will require specialized treatment.
Treating Sinus Infections
A short-term solution would be to use oxymetazoline, which is a nasal decongestant spray. It will greatly minimize the symptoms experienced and give relief. However, do not use it for more than three days. Prolonged use can eventually cause a rebound effect, which will result in your symptoms getting much worse.
You also have the option of using a steroid nasal spray like fluticasone, triamcinolone or mometasone. This can relieve your symptoms without making your situation worse, even if you use it over a long period of time. You can buy fluticasone and triamcinolone nasal sprays over the counter.
You can also go for over the counter medications which have antihistamines and decongestants, especially if you have allergies. They will help to manage your condition. Well known drugs that fall under this category include:
In case you have prostate problems, high blood pressure, insomnia, and glaucoma, it is best that you do not take decongestants. The best thing would be to consult your doctor before you start using any medication, just to be sure that you are taking the right thing for your condition.
According to recent research, nasal irrigation is quite important when it comes to sudden and prolonged sinusitis. It is also good if you have seasonal allergies or allergic rhinitis.
You can use a nasal solution. CDC states that there is minimal risk of you getting an infection if you use tap water to make your own solution. In case you decide to use tap water, it is best if you boil it first and then leave it to cool down. Alternatively, use a water filter. Additionally, you can buy distilled water or opt to use ready-made solutions that are sold over the counter. You can also make your own homemade nasal solution. Mix 1 cup of warm water with a ½ tablespoon of salt and ½ tablespoon of baking soda. Then get a nasal sprayer and spray this solution into your mouth. Alternatively, use a Neti pot or sinus rinsing system to pour the solution into your nose. This saline solution is quite effective when it comes to clearing discharge from your sinuses, reducing drying and flush allergens.
In Europe, herbal remedies are quite popular when it comes to treating sinusitis. GeloMytrol has been proved to be quite good when it comes to treating both sudden and prolonged cases of sinusitis. This product has essential oils and Sinupret, an oral concoction of elderflower, cowslip, verbena, sorrel, and gentian root. However, it is best that you do not make this concoction on your own. This is because failing to use the right quantities of each herb can result in accidental side effects, such as diarrhea and allergic reactions.
Antibiotics, such as amoxicillin, are only used when the sinus infection has failed to respond to other forms of treatments like nasal steroid sprays, nasal rinse and pain medicines. Get a prescription for the antibiotic from a qualified health professional. Some of the side effects that you might experience as a result of using antibiotics include diarrhea, rash and stomach problems. In addition, if you abuse antibiotics, the resultant effect is the development of superbugs. These are bacteria that cause bacterial infections that do not respond to treatment.
Can Sinus Infections Be Prevented?
Stay away from anything that aggravates your sinuses and nose. This decreases the chances of getting sinusitis. For instance, cigarette smoke predisposes you to get sinusitis. This is because smoking destroys the natural lining that is found in the nose, mouth, throat and even respiratory system. Therefore, if you are a smoker and want to quit, consider seeking medical care to get the support that you need to quit. This will be particularly helpful in case of either acute or prolonged sinusitis.
During cold and flu seasons, it is advisable for you to wash your hands often, so as to prevent your sinuses from getting inflamed as a result of the bacteria in your hands.
Consult a doctor to help determine if your sinusitis is caused by allergens. In case the infection is as a result of something that you are allergic to, you need to get the allergy treated. This might involve seeing an allergy specialist or getting allergic immunotherapy shots. By controlling your allergies, you will minimize cases of sinusitis infections.
Sinusitis in Children
Your child’s sinuses’ will fully develop when they become teens. However, they are born with tiny maxillary (behind the cheek) and ethmoid (between the eyes) sinuses. But it can be more challenging to diagnose sinusitis in kids as compared to adults since the symptoms presented are symptoms that are similar to those caused by other illnesses, such as allergies or viral infections.
A lot of kids have allergies or get infections that center around the ears and eyes. Since kids tend to get colds, it could eventually lead to sinusitis in 10% of the cases.
Here are the signs that your child has sinusitis:
- A cold that lasts for seven days together with a fever
- Swollen eyes
- Thick and colored mucus
- Post nasal drips that can lead to bad breath, nausea, coughing and vomiting
It’s best to consult a doctor, so as to establish the best course of treatment for your child. This includes the use of nasal sprays, saline drops, and pain relief medication.
Do not give children under two years of age over the counter cough syrups and decongestants.
Up to 90% of kids recover from a sinus infection without having to get treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics are usually used in severe situations or if other complications develop as a result of sinusitis. In case your child fails to respond to treatment or if their symptoms get worse, then your doctor can refer you to an otolaryngologist. This is a doctor who specializes in eyes, ears and throat problems. An ENT professional can examine a sample of the mucus to try and tell what has caused the infection. The ENT professional will also examine the sinuses closely to try and see if there are any structural problems with the sinuses that could be causing problems and lead to chronic sinus issues.
How to Diagnose Sinusitis in Children?
A parent or even a medical doctor can misdiagnose sinusitis. Having green mucus is not necessarily an indication that you have a sinus infection; it could just be an indication that the child has a cold.
When you consult an ENT professional, they will closely examine the eye, nose, and ears of the child, and ask about their medical history. For instance, if he has had such attacks before.
Here are some additional tests that they will carry out:
- Computed tomographic (CT)-To check if the baby’s sinuses have developed and if there are any blockages.
- Sinus x-rays- This will give an image of the internal tissues, organs, and bones.
- Culture-Tissue samples will be taken from the sinuses and grown in a lab to determine the specific infection that the baby has.
When is Surgical Intervention Necessary?
Surgical operations are normally carried out in rare cases when children fail to respond to available treatments. The ENT surgeon will use an endoscope to open up the airways of the sinus cavities and make them bigger. This makes it possible for culturing to be done, such that the specific antibiotics to treat the condition can be used. Opening the sinuses allows for better air circulation, consequently leading to fewer infections and less intense symptoms.
The doctor might also advise for adenoids to be removed from behind the nose. This is good for treating sinuses. When adenoids get infected, it can result in symptoms that are similar to those caused by sinuses.
Recovery from Sinuses
If proper care and medication are given, a sinus infection should resolve within a week or two. If you have prolonged sinusitis, then it is advisable that you see a medical doctor or even a specialist. This will help you get to the root cause of the infection. Prolonged sinusitis can take three to four months to resolve. If you maintain good hygiene, keep your sinuses moist and clear and treat the symptoms that appear, you can greatly shorten the length of infection.
Home Remedies for Treating Sinusitis
Here are some home remedies you can try out:
Steam helps to keep the area around you moist. This will help to keep your sinuses moist and thin out the mucus. Dry air and dry sinuses can cause the infection to get worse and give you headaches.
You can use a humidifier or breathe in the moist air when taking a hot shower. Adding eucalyptus oil to your bath water can help to accelerate your recovery. Eucalyptus has cineole, which is effective in healing acute sinusitis.
Use a saline spray to keep your sinuses moist. This reduces sinus pressure. Buy saline solutions from a drug store or make your own at home.
Get plenty of rest and sleep. Resting stimulate the brain to produce hormones that trigger the growth of new tissues. Your body also produces lots of white blood cells when you are at rest. These cells will fight off viruses and bacteria.
Sleep with your head propped up on the pillow. Lying flat on the bed can encourage mucous build up. This can make it hard for you to breathe well.
If your sinus passage dries out, it will result in you getting a lot of pressure on your head. Take lots of liquids, so as to stay hydrated throughout the day. This will minimize chances of your sinuses blocking.
Use Biofeedback therapy to learn how to control your body’s functions. This will help to minimize the pressure that you feel around your face, ears, eyes, and neck. This is a proven technique that helps to relieve headaches. You can also practice deep breathing and yoga to help you relax and minimize pain and pressure brought caused by sinuses.
Working out is a great way to boost air circulation in your body. This will reduce congestion and make it easier for you to breathe well. Even though it is uncomfortable to work out when you are sick, you will be able to recover much faster.
What is a Sinus X-Ray?
Even though it is not quite certain what the work of the sinuses are, it is thought that it moistens the air that is breathed through the nose and it also gives your face its proper structural shape. Sinuses come in pairs. They are air-filled holes that are located around the nasal structure. To view the details of your sinuses, a sinus x-ray is used. This is an imaging test that uses a small amount of radiation.
Here are four types of sinuses:
- Frontal Sinuses: These are situated over and above the eyes, more specifically at the center of your forehead or just above each eye.
- Maxillary Sinuses: They are situated just behind your cheekbones, right close to the upper jaws. They are the biggest sinuses.
- Sphenoid Sinuses: These are situated right behind your skull, close to where your pituitary gland and optic nerve are placed.
- Ethmoid Sinuses: These sinuses can be found right between your eyes and at the bridge of your nose. These sinuses have 6-21 small air cells that open up to the nasal passage, they are divided into front, middle and rear groups.
When looking at a sinus x-ray, a black image where the sinuses are is a good sign, since it shows that the sinus cavities are filled with air. However, if the x-ray image is white or gray, thus should raise alarm bells. It could indicate that the sinuses are swollen or filled with fluid.
Why is Sinus X-Ray Performed?
If you have symptoms of sinusitis, then your doctor will order a sinus x-ray.
Signs of sinusitis:
- Stuffed nose with white, green or yellowish mucous
- Your forehead right in between your eyes will be painful or your cheeks or upper jaw
- The area around your eyes, nose, and ears will swell
- Reduced sense of smell
- Postnasal discharge
- Painful throat
What Happens During a Sinus X-Ray?
A sinus x-ray is usually performed in a hospital or medical laboratory. You can get it done as an outpatient or inpatient. You will have to get rid of any metallic jewelry that you are wearing before undergoing the test. The test will be done by an x-ray technician.
You can either sit up on an x-ray table or lie down during the test. The technician will then cover you with a lead apron over your torso to protect you against the radiation. Your head will then be lined up with the x-ray machine. Stay as still as possible as the x-ray is being done, so that the image doesn’t get blurred. The radiologist will then move behind a protective window as they capture your image.
The process takes a couple of seconds and you will hear a clicking sound as they capture the image. The radiologist will reposition you, so as to capture the images of all your sinuses.
Sinus X-Ray Side Effects
Inform your doctor about any previous medical tests that you have done before. This is because it is not good to be overexposed to radiation. This is given that sinus x-rays use a small bit of radiation. Even small amounts of radiation can be risky.
In case you are pregnant or you suspect that you are pregnant, be sure to let the doctor know. This is so that they can order a different test or put special measures in place to protect your baby against any radiation. Exposure to radiation can cause birth defects in fetuses.
What Happens After a Sinus X-Ray?
The sinus x-ray might show that you have a sinus infection. Other tests can be ordered to determine the exact cause of the infection.
- Nasal endoscopy or rhinoscopy
- Blood tests
- CT scan or MRI
- Bacteria culture and sinus puncture
The tests performed will depend on your specific situation.
Is Sinusitis Contagious?
If the sinus infection that you have is viral, then it’s possible to spread this virus to other people. Consequently, the other person might get a cold that might eventually lead to a sinus infection.
In case the sinus infection is caused by a bacteria or fungus, then it is not infectious.
Most sinus infections are viral. In case you have a viral infection, chances are that you can spread this infection to other people. However, this does not necessarily mean that the person will get a sinus infection. They might just get a cold. In some instances, this cold could turn into a sinus infection. Nevertheless, this is not always the case.
The sinus virus can be airborne. You can spread it to other people through the air when you cough or sneeze. That is why it is important that you cover your mouth whenever you are coughing or sneezing, so as to minimize the chances of spreading the virus to other people.
In case you sneeze or cough directly onto another object or into your hand and another person touches the object or your hands, then they are likely to pick up the virus from you. That is why the best thing is for you to cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow. It is also essential that you wash your hands on a regular basis anytime that you are sick.
Even though some sinus infections are caused by bacteria this is not so common. Only less than 2% of sinus infections are as a result of bacterial infections. In addition, sinus bacterial infections are not contagious; therefore you cannot spread them to other people.