Sinus infection or sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinuses. It commonly starts as a viral infection and becomes secondarily infected with bacteria. In this part of the world, warmth and humidity can also result in fungal infection of the sinuses.
Sinuses are air-filled cavities within the bones of the upper face. When the sinus becomes inflamed or infected, mucus thickens and clogs up the openings of one or more sinuses. This causes fluid to build up inside the sinuses due to pressure, resulting in bacteria becoming trapped, multiplying and infecting the lining.
Common symptoms of sinus infection include:
Sinusitis can be acute or chronic (persistent). Acute sinusitis is more common and even healthy people can experience it around two to three times per year. Acute sinusitis typically lasts up to three weeks before the body recovers on its own. This type of sinusitis is usually caused by an upper respiratory viral infection. Chronic sinusitis, on the other hand, can last longer than 12 weeks and may occur due to a variety of factors such as a weak immune system and abnormal structural defects.
There are also other causes of sinus infections, which include the following:
During a visit to a sinusitis clinic, besides analysing your medical history, the doctor will conduct a physical examination of your nose, throat and sinuses. This is performed to check for signs of infections like redness, swelling and nasal discharge discolouration.
The examination of your nose and sinus openings is usually done by inserting a long, thin, flexible tube with a tiny camera and a light attached to one end down your nasal opening. The procedure is usually not painful but may be uncomfortable for some people. At Amandela ENT Head and Neck Centre, our ENT specialist will administer a light anaesthetic nasal spray to prevent you from feeling too much discomfort.
If your sinus infection has persisted for more than eight weeks, doctors may recommend to undergo a sinus CT scan to determine the exact cause and extent of the infection.
Many sinus disorders can improve without treatment. However, some medications have been shown to speed up recovery and significantly reduce the chance of the infection becoming chronic. Depending on the severity of the sinus infection, doctors may recommend antibiotic treatments, steroidal nasal sprays, or even sinusitis surgery.
Antibiotics: Should the doctor suspect a bacterial infection is causing your sinusitis, they may prescribe antibiotics to treat it. Antibiotics help eliminate the source of the infection by attacking the bacteria causing it. They do not alleviate symptoms immediately and may sometimes worsen as the sinuses drain before the symptoms start to improve. Increased drainage is good for the sinuses but may initially increase post–nasal drip and cough.
Steroidal nasal sprays: These help reduce inflammation and improve drainage of the sinuses. They may also help to treat underlying allergies. Contrary to popular belief, they are safe and are now part of international guidelines, even for acute infections. In chronic infections, they can be used safely long term to prevent the recurrence of symptoms. As with antibiotics, drainage may show signs of worsening before the symptoms resolve.
Nasal decongestant sprays and antihistamines: Some doctors recommend taking nasal decongestant sprays to treat the symptoms of sinus infection. This is given to shrink swollen nasal passages and improve the flow of drainage from the sinuses. These should only be used in acute infections for a short period, as symptoms may rebound if used for more than one to two weeks. Some doctors also prescribe antihistamines or cough mixtures to reduce nasal discharge and post-nasal drip. But this may cause you to cough often, especially at night, disrupting your sleep. They may also thicken mucus, impeding sinus drainage and worsening the sinus infection. Therefore, they should not be used in acute infections. However, they may sometimes be necessary for the treatment of chronic infections. These medications should be used sparingly, usually at night, to aid sleep and rest, which will help with recovery.
Sinus surgery: If your symptoms show no sign of improvement even with drug therapy, sinus surgery may be considered as a last resort. Sinusitis surgery typically involves fixing defects within the nasal passages, removing nasal polyps and opening previously closed passages. It is usually performed under general anaesthesia but can be carried out under local anaesthesia and patients can also choose to be discharged on the same day.
Any surgical procedure has risks. Most sinus surgeries involve some degree of blood loss that is generally well tolerated. However, significant bleeding may impede visualisation and risk injury to the eye and brain. This could result in early termination of surgery, but this rarely occurs. Technological advancements in computer-assisted endoscopic sinus surgery have made the operation safe while ensuring significant disease removal.
Sinus surgery can also be used to treat nasal polyps. Nasal polyps are soft, painless cancerous growths that may develop inside the nose. In the past, nasal polyps were considered a medical condition rather than a surgical disease that would require long–term medication to manage it. A better understanding of disease aided by better technology has greatly improved surgical success in 80 to 90% of patients. However 10-20% of patients who do have polyps that recur even after ‘perfect’ surgical results. A combination of endoscopic sinus surgery and medication helps to control the condition better. Some patients may, however, require revision surgery.
At Amandela ENT Head & Neck Center, we provide subspecialty care that you can trust and rely on throughout your recovery journey. Contact our experienced sinus specialists to get expert advice and support for your sinus infection today.
Is Sinus Surgery a Serious Surgery?
This procedure is safe and generally comes with little to no risk.
Is Sinusitis Surgery Painful?
There may be some pain or discomfort a few days following the procedure, but the surgery itself is not painful as it is performed under anaesthesia.
Can Sinusitis Be Cured with Surgery?
Patients with chronic sinusitis will experience easier breathing with surgery, but this may not be a permanent cure for the condition in some patients.
How Long Does Sinusitis Surgery Take?
This may take between 30 minutes to a couple of hours. The duration depends on the degree of sinus involvement.
How Long is the Recovery Period for Sinus Surgery?
Depending on the severity of your disease, it can take a few weeks to recover and return to your normal routine.
How Do I Know If My Sinuses Are Infected?
The four main symptoms of an infected sinus are:
How Do I Get Rid of My Sinus Infection?
Here are a few tips for treating mild sinusitis:
Can A Sinus Infection Go Away on Its Own?
Some infections may resolve naturally; however, you may need to consult a specialist if it gets worse.
Amandela ENT Head & Neck Center
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