Sinusitis, or rhinosinusitis as your doctor may call it, is nothing more than an infection of the nasal cavities which leaves the cavities inflamed and swollen. Often, a virus brings on this medical condition which can linger long after other respiratory symptoms have disappeared.
Bacteria or fungus in the cavities can bring about the infection, but the symptoms might also be attributed to a tooth infection, nasal polyps, or allergies. For this reason, a person needs to know when to see a doctor about their sinus issues. What symptoms are a red flag something is going on that will require medical treatment?
An Acute Condition or a Chronic Problem?
According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, acute sinusitis lasts less than four weeks and is often accompanied by a cold or respiratory illness. In contrast, chronic sinusitis recurs or lasts for three months or longer. To determine if a patient has rhinosinusitis the physicians at Wellstar Medical Group look for congestion, facial pain, and nasal discharge with signs of infection.
Men, women, and children suffering from sinusitis often complain about sinus pain. However, they don’t always recognize the source of the pain because it can appear in numerous places. The sinuses are located above and below the eyes and behind the nose. Any of these nasal cavities may be painful when they become swollen and inflamed.
Patients often report a feeling of dull pressure with sinusitis. Pain may also appear on either side of the nose, between the eyes, in the forehead, or in the teeth and upper jaw. Headaches are a common symptom of this medical condition as well.
The pressure and swelling within the sinus cavities are often what bring about the headache. However, this is only one sign there is a problem within these cavities. Some patients find they have an earache as the pressure builds while others experience dental pain or pain in the jaw and/or cheeks.
Headaches caused by sinus inflammation are typically worse first thing in the morning. The fluids have been building up in the cavities all night and now bring about the pain. Nevertheless, other things may lead to a sinus headache, including a sudden change in barometric pressure.
A stuffy nose is another sign there might be a problem with the sinuses. When these nasal cavities become swollen and inflamed, breathing through the nose tends to become more difficult. In addition, patients report their senses of smell and taste are negatively impacted and many people say their voice changes as a result of the infection.
One way to tell if the sinuses have become infected is to note the color of any nasal discharge. Simply blow your nose and pay attention to whether the discharge is green, yellow, or cloudy. If it is, the sinuses are infected and the drainage is making its way to the nasal passages.
However, some people find they don’t experience this type of nasal drainage. Rather, they have a sore throat, an itchy throat, or a tickle in the back of the throat. All are due to the nasal discharge that is making its way down the back of the throat rather than coming out of the nose.
When the discharge moves down the throat, it is referred to as postnasal drip. Individuals with this symptom often find they cough more at night when they go to bed and again in the morning when they get up. Sleeping with the head elevated can help to minimize the cough.
As the throat is constantly being irritated by the drainage, it may feel raw and painful. The tickle worsens over time and the throat begins to hurt. You may even lose your voice if the throat remains irritated long enough.
Home Treatment Options
Treating a minor sinus infection at home is possible. There are numerous remedies one can use. Try different combinations until you find the one that works best for you.
Nasal irrigation is one method of treating sinusitis that has been shown to be very effective. Mix one cup of warm water that has been boiled and cooled together with 1/2 teaspoon each of baking soda and table salt. Use a nasal sprayer to inject the solution into the nose or use a Neti pot or sinus rinsing system to deliver the solution to the nasal cavities. Doing so removes allergens, clears out the discharge, and relieves dryness.
Nasal decongestant sprays help to bring symptoms under control for a short period of time, but should never be used for more than three days. Using them longer can bring about more congestion thanks to a rebound effect. Certain steroid nasal sprays, however, may be used over the long term without the worry of this new issue developing.
Products containing a decongestant and antihistamine might also be of help. This is especially true for those individuals who also have allergies. Nevertheless, care must be taken as decongestants can be harmful to individuals with glaucoma, sleep problems, prostate issues, or high blood pressure.
When to Call the Doctor
Although many sinus infections can be treated at home, there are times when medical attention needs to be sought. Anytime the symptoms are accompanied by fever, call and make an appointment to be seen. Furthermore, if the symptoms persist for more than ten days or they come back after disappearing, medical treatment is needed to resolve the problem.
Doctors often turn to antibiotics to treat acute sinusitis, especially when home treatments have failed. Nevertheless, individuals might find they have side effects when taking the medication. This could include diarrhea, stomach upset, and/or rash. For this reason, a person should try all other available treatments first.
Don’t hesitate to contact the doctor if you are feeling unwell and nothing seems to be helping. It’s always best to have a doctor confirm what is going on, as he or she can recommend the best treatment to resolve the issue. However, it never hurts to try home remedies first. You might find you feel much better and you didn’t have to wait to be seen, which is sure to be appreciated once you are back on your feet once again.