Sinusitis is inflammation of the tissues in the sinus cavities, usually caused by bacteria or fungi. Fungal infections affect those with weakened immune systems or chronic allergies. Sinusitis begins as a sinus infection, which can be chronic or recurring (acute). When an infection begins, it blocks the normal flow of mucus, while causing the nasal tissues to swell and trapping the mucus in the sinus cavities.
Symptoms of Sinusitis often include:
- Tenderness of the face
- Jaw pain
- Postnasal drip
- Greenish nasal discharge
- Bad breath
If a sinus infection lasts longer than 8 weeks or antibiotics are not working, seeing an ENT or allergist is necessary. An ENT can do different types of examinations, such as a CT scan to look at the sinus cavity openings or using a special camera through the nasal passage to look for blockages. An allergist would take mucus cultures to determine what is causing the infection; knowing the cause can lead to more effective treatment.
Chronic infections can lead to more serious issues such as nasal polyps, deformation of sinus passages, or even the collapse of nasal passages due to serious infections and mucus or bacterial buildup.
Types of treatment could include antibiotics, nasal decongestant sprays, steroids, antihistamines, topical corticosteroids, nasal saline washes, or surgery.
If drug therapies fail, surgery may be recommended as a last resort. One of the most common procedures is called Balloon Sinuplasty, a low risk, in-office procedure where a balloon catheter is used to clear blocked sinuses. Balloon Sinuplasty can be performed under local, as well as conscious sedation at the direction of an anesthesiologist. Once inside the sinus cavity, the balloon is inflated to expand the sinus opening. It has minimal complications, as there is no cutting or removal of bone or tissue. Once the passage is cleared, the balloon is removed.
Most patients recover in just a few days to a week. You may see drainage and experience swelling and congestion or some pain and fatigue. ENT specialists recommend not to blow your nose for at least 24 hours and to avoid strenuous activity for a week following the procedure. You will probably be given a saline solution to rinse your nasal passages to keep sinuses lubricated and to promote healing.