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Understanding Sinusitis — A General Q&A

Do you or someone you know suffer from sinus problems? You’re not alone. Around 40 million people in the U.S. are affected by sinusitis every year, and 33 million cases of chronic sinusitis are reported annually to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
What is sinusitis, exactly? What causes it, and what can you do to treat it? Here are some answers to general questions about sinusitis to help you understand it and treat it better. Additional information from entnet.org. 

Q. What causes sinusitis?

A. Sinusitis is caused when the membranes lining the sinuses become inflamed as a result of infection by a virus or bacteria. Inflammation is usually due to the blockage of the small drainage pathways that lead to the nasal passages. This, in turn, causes inflammation of the sinuses, which prevents proper drainage.

Q. What are common symptoms of sinusitis?

A. Common symptoms of sinusitis include runny nose/nasal drainage, difficulty breathing through the nose, cough, headaches, sore throat, postnasal drip, bad breath, facial and upper jaw pain, sensitive eyes, swelling of the eyelids, teeth pain, fatigue, and fever.

Q. What is acute and chronic sinusitis?

A. Acute sinusitis usually doesn’t last more than four weeks, and the condition responds well to antibiotics and decongestants. Chronic sinusitis is a more severe version of sinusitis, and is characterized by at least four recurrences of acute sinusitis. Chronic sinusitis may persist from a few weeks to several months to even years. When sinus symptoms last longer than 12 weeks, you should see an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor for a diagnosis.

Q. What is the difference between chronic sinusitis and allergies or colds?

A. Sinusitis is often caused by allergies and colds. Colds and allergies often result in inflamed sinuses, causing the sinus openings to become blocked. This prevents normal mucus drainage and can result in sinusitis.

Q. How is sinusitis generally treated?

A. The first course of action in treating sinusitis should be natural therapies such as inhaling steam or using saline nasal sprays. In more severe cases, an ENT doctor can do a proper diagnosis and prescribe medications such as antibiotics or nasal steroid sprays. However, some clinical studies have shown that some chronic sinusitis patients do not respond to medical therapy. In some cases, an ENT doctor may recommend sinus surgery.

Q. What is done during sinus surgery?

A. When sinus surgery is needed, the physician will remove bone and tissue to enlarge the sinus opening with the objective of clearing blocked sinuses and restoring normal sinus drainage. Depending on Recovery of this procedure is usually associated with some pain and scarring.

Another option is balloon sinuplasty, which is a minimally invasive procedure that ENT doctors use to treat patients with chronic sinusitis. A tiny balloon is placed into the nose to reach the blocked sinuses and then inflated to restructure the sinus opening. The procedure is comparatively safe, effective and has a quick recovery time.

If you are suffering from sinus problems, talk to a qualified ENT doctor about getting a proper diagnosis, and exploring all of your sinus treatment options and ask what type of sinus therapy is best for you.

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