As spring begins to turn slowly into summer, many individuals find it a difficult time of year for sinuses. Congestion can be challenging and at times affect our quality of life. If you are struggling with regular inflammation of the nasal passages, you could be dealing with a sinus infection. Prolonged complications are usually defined as chronic sinusitis. The problem, while uncomfortable, is a standard issue that plagues roughly 29.4 million adults in the U.S. alone. What many individuals are unaware of the different categories and issues that can happen if left untreated.
What is Chronic Sinusitis?
Sinusitis is characterized by swelling and inflammation of the cavities and nasal passages. It can affect the nose, cheeks, and behind the eyes. This condition interferes with drainage and can cause a lot of mucus build-up resulting in difficulties with breathing. Chronic sinusitis refers to the swelling lasting for at least 12 weeks despite actively taking medication to bring down the inflammation.
There are a few reasons why people get sinusitis such as infection, growths in the sinus, or by having a deviated septum. Overall, the condition mostly affects young and middle-aged adults, but there have been instances where children suffer as well.
How do I Know It's Sinusitis?
For your ENT to diagnose you with sinusitis, you must show symptoms of at least two of the following symptoms:
- Pain or swelling around the eyes, cheeks, nose, or forehead.
- Nasal congestion making it difficult to breathe through your nose
- Thick, discolored discharge
Additionally, patients can have ear pain, aching in the upper jaw and teeth, or a sore throat. The biggest takeaway is the length of time you are suffering from these issues. Acute sinusitis has the same symptoms, but it is temporary and is usually coupled with a head cold. That being said, if you have any of the above issues in addition to a fever, it most likely acute sinusitis rather than a chronic condition.
Complications Associated with Chronic Sinusitis
In the instances you have respiratory issues, you'll want to address them with medications to alleviate symptoms to make it easier to breathe. If left untreated, chronic sinusitis can cause different complications. Meningitis is one of the most significant issues associated with sinusitis and is an infection that produces inflammation of the membranes and fluid around the brain and spinal cord. There are various types of meningitis, but the one directly associated with sinus problems is bacterial. When a sinus infection is present, bacteria can directly affect the meninges. Meningitis is a serious illness and if not treated properly can cause death.
Additionally, chronic sinusitis can lead to partial or complete loss of smell, vision problems from the swelling around the eyes, or in sporadic instances, have the infection spread to the bones.
When Should I See My Doctor About Chronic Sinusitis?
It's important to reiterate that there is a difference between acute and chronic sinusitis. It's possible to have several bouts of acute problems before it becomes a permanent issue. You should seek medical assistance if the condition has returned or lasted longer than four weeks and is not responding to medications. Immediate assistance should be requested if you have a high fever, significant swelling or redness around the eyes, blurred vision, and a stiff neck.
Preventing Sinus Issues
There are a few things you can do to reduce your chances of getting chronic sinusitis. Begin by avoiding contact with those who are already suffering from a cold or other respiratory infections. These diseases can spread, and you'll want to wash your hands with soap and water if there is cross contamination.
Take steps to alleviate allergy problems. By working with your doctor, you can take steps to keep everything under control. Avoid pollution and cigarette smoke, both of which can irritate and inflame the nasal passage or lungs. It's also best practice to utilize a humidifier. Moisture in the air can prevent sinusitis as long as you keep it clean of mold and mildew.
While sinusitis is a problematic issue, some remedies help patients find relief. To learn more about diagnosis and treatment options, schedule an appointment with OAT today.