Sinuses are air-filled spaces in the skull. Many infections can be caused when germs, fluids, or pollutants block the sinuses. A sinus cavity infection near the brain can be disastrous and even fatal. If not appropriately treated, the disease can also spread to the brain. People diagnosed with sinus infections complain of cold-like symptoms, a loss of appetite, difficulty breathing through the nose, and pain in the facial area and around the eyes.
This article will cover everything you need about sinusitis, from the different types of infections to the best treatment options.
What is a Sinus Infection?
Sinusitis is a swelling or inflammation of the tissue lining the sinuses. These are vacant spaces within the bones, between the eyes, behind the cheekbones, and in the forehead. These produce mucus which keeps the inside of the nose moist. That helps protect against many allergies, dust, and pollutants.
A sinus infection can typically happen after a cold. During a cold, the nasal passages become inflamed, which may block the sinuses’ opening, resulting in disease. Many allergies can also cause nasal tissue swelling, make more mucus, and cause sinusitis.
To understand sinus infections, it is essential to understand their anatomy.
What is included in the anatomy of the sinuses of the skull?
The sinuses of the head are hollow, rounded air spaces within the bones of the skull. The sinuses are paired with bones and named based on their locations.
- Maxillary sinuses: Concerning the nasal cavities, they are lateral and slightly inferior.
- Ethmoidal sinuses: In between the ethmoid bones are the ethmoid sinuses. Depending on their location, these ethmoidal air cells are categorized as anterior, middle, and posterior.
- Frontal sinuses: They are located above the eyes in the frontal bone.
- Sphenoid sinus: This is located at the rear of the nasal cavity within the body of the sphenoid bone.
- Adenoid or pharyngeal sinuses: These are located in the nasopharynx, on either side of the nasal cavity.
Types of Sinusitis
There are different types of sinusitis, but all of them have similar symptoms. Treatment varies according to the duration and severity of the symptoms.
i. Acute Sinusitis
A runny nose and pressure on your cheekbones, over the forehead, or near the eyes may mean that you have acute sinusitis. It occurs when the membranes that line your nose and surrounding areas become inflamed. Also, this impedes the ability to drain mucus from the nose and sinuses. This sinus infection without mucus may last up to 4 weeks, as it has the shortest duration.
There are several primary and most common symptoms associated with sinus infections.
- Occasional cough
- Swelling around the eye area
- Runny nose
- Severe headaches
- Bad breath
- Sore throat
- Facial pain
Additionally, a viral infection eventually leads to most cases of acute sinusitis. Other possible sources include seasonal allergies, fungi, nasal polyps, and infected adenoids.
Here are some of the listed risk factors that can increase the risk of developing acute sinusitis:
- Intranasal allergies
- Tobacco smoking
- Cystic fibrosis
- A weakened immune system
- Large or inflamed adenoids
- Abnormalities of the nasal passages, such as a deviated septum.
Acute Frontal Sinusitis
Behind your eyes, you have a pair of small, air-filled cavities known as your frontal sinuses. This cavity and three other paranasal sinuses produce thin mucus that drains through your nasal passages. When the sinuses become inflamed, mucus cannot drain properly, resulting in frontal sinusitis.
Acute Ethmoid Sinusitis
A sinus infection occurs when mucus builds up in the sinuses and causes them to become infected. Usually, this is caused by swelling of the nasal passages and sinus openings. It is possible to develop ethmoid sinusitis due to upper respiratory infections or allergies. Over time, the condition can cause permanent damage to your sinus cavities, which leads to symptoms that last long after the initial infection clears up.
How is Acute Sinusitis Diagnosed?
During a physical examination to diagnose an acute sinus infection, the nose is examined for signs of inflammation or tumor during a physical exam.
Nasal endoscopy is a procedure in which a thin and flexible fiber-optic scope helps the doctor identify inflammation or other abnormalities in the sinuses. An increase in certain inflammatory chemicals, such as histamines, can also contribute to the symptoms of acute sinusitis.
If the sinus doctor suspects inflammation or other abnormalities in the nose, they may recommend a CT scan or MRI. A CT scan uses a rotating X-ray and computers to take detailed and cross-sectional images of the body.
However, an MRI takes 3D images using radio waves and a magnetic field.
Both of these tests are noninvasive. Thus, it is better to follow the doctor’s recommendations. The doctor may perform surgery to remove nasal polyps or tumors.
ii. Chronic Sinusitis
Chronic sinusitis is less common than acute sinusitis. However, it is becoming more common among all age groups. In the case of a chronic sinus infection, the symptoms persist for more than 12 weeks.
Acute sinusitis symptoms tend to be more severe than chronic sinusitis symptoms and commonly occur alongside persistent allergies or nasal structural issues. Bacterial infection may be to blame in such cases.
Some common signs of chronic sinusitis are:
- Stuffy nose
- Postnasal drainage
- The face, cheeks, nose, eyes, and forehead are tender, swollen, and painful.
- Nasal inflammation
- Pain in the upper jaw and teeth
- Reduced sense of smell
- Sore throat
The severity of sinus symptoms can fluctuate over time. While initial acute sinusitis symptoms may be the worst, they may ease off and not be as severe, leaving behind mild lingering symptoms.
Why Does Chronic Sinusitis Occur?
A deviated nasal septum can lead to obstruction of the sinus passages, resulting in nasal wall inflammation, which may worsen sinusitis symptoms.
Growth of nasal polyps
These tissue growths can block the nasal cavity or sinuses, which is one of the leading causes.
Respiratory tract infections
The sinus membrane becomes inflamed and thick because of infections in the respiratory tract, like a cold, causing blocked mucus drainage. Besides that, sinus infections may be caused by viruses or bacteria.
Allergies such as hay fever
Inflammation that occurs due to an allergic reaction can block the sinuses, which can cause sinus infections.
Whenever there is an obstruction in the mucus drainage system, bacteria may begin to grow. It can also lead to sinus infections. Many viruses and bacteria that cause the flu and colds can also cause sinusitis.
A partial or complete blockage of the sinus drainage channel may occur in sinusitis. The mucus cannot flow freely from the nasal passages due to a deviated septum, which increases the risk of other associated conditions. Sinus infections are shared among the elderly. Moreover, the nasal passages tend to dry out with age, the cartilage that supports the nasal passages weakens, and the immune system may become compromised.
There is also a possibility that a persistent allergy can result in sinus inflammation, swelling, or obstruction of the draining channels. Consequently, a sinus infection can impair your vision if it spreads to your eye socket or causes blindness that can be permanent.
Chronic sinusitis can lead to spinal cord, brain membrane, and bone infections or even cause life-threatening skin infections.
Avoid physical contact with people who have a cold or are sick with other infections. Always wash your hands often. Avoid exposure to things you are allergic to whenever possible. You should avoid cigarettes and polluted air because both can cause irritated lungs and nasal passages.
If sinus infections last more than eight weeks or standard antibiotic treatment does not relieve symptoms, your doctor may recommend a sinus CT scan. The diagnosis of sinus infections is usually based on your symptoms and a physical examination of your nose and sinus openings. A doctor may first examine the ear with an otoscope. An otoscope is a medical instrument doctors use to analyze the nose and ear. It is also possible to take an x-ray of the sinuses or do a blood test. In addition to an MRI or CT scan, nasal imaging can also be performed.
Treatment for Sinusitis
Corticosteroids can be used to prevent and treat inflammation in the nasal cavity. Injecting corticosteroids relieves inflammation from severe sinusitis, especially if you have nasal polyps.
Fluticasone, budesonide, and beclomethasone work well for nasal congestion. Your doctor might prescribe a saline solution mixed with drops of budesonide or fluticasone if the sprays are ineffective. Sprays and solutions for nasal congestion usually reduce irritants and allergies and facilitate drainage.
The doctors may advise antifungal medicine if the infection is due to fungi. To treat chronic sinusitis, the doctor may prescribe dupilumab or omalizumab.
In some cases, antibiotics are required to treat sinus infections caused by bacteria. Immunotherapy is also an option for treating sinus infections. It is also possible to undergo surgery if you suffer from severe sinusitis. Doctors use a thin, flexible tube and an endoscope to view the sinus passages during endoscopic sinus surgery.
Antibiotics for Sinuses
Usually, sinus infections can be treated without antibiotics. Without antibiotics, sinus infections typically get better on their own. Although, if symptoms persist or worsen, antibiotics are typically required. Common side effects of antibiotics include a rash that can be mild or severe or kidney failure. Additionally, you can experience severe allergic reactions, antibiotic-resistant infections, and different Infections. If you have a medical history, consult your doctor for the best treatment. Then your doctor may recommend delaying or waiting to use antibiotics.
Children should be given medicines only after reading the label and following the directions. Some over-the-counter medications are not recommended for children of certain ages.
Pain relief medications
Acetaminophen is the only medication recommended for children younger than six months. The recommended dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen for babies and children six months or older is 500 mg daily. Aspirin should never be given to children because it can cause Reye’s syndrome, which is rare but life-threatening; Reye’s syndrome can harm the liver and brain.
Antitussives and cold medicines
Children under four years should not be given over-the-counter cough and cold medications unless specifically recommended by their physician. Young children can suffer severe and sometimes life-threatening side effects from cough and cold medicines.
Discuss over-the-counter cough and cold medication with your child’s doctor if they are over four. If your child is between 2 and 7 years old, consult your doctor or pharmacist about the proper dosage of over-the-counter medicines. Ensure your child’s doctor and pharmacist know about all the prescription and over-the-counter drugs they take.
Home Remedies for Sinus Infection
A sinusitis patient must rest. Rest will help your body fight infection and speed up recovery. Remember to moisten your sinuses. Breathe in the steam from a bowl of hot water while draped with a towel. Make sure the vapor is directed toward your face. Consider taking a hot shower and breathing in the moist, warm air. As a result, the pain will be relieved, and the mucus will be drained.
You can apply warm compresses to your face to relieve your symptoms. Put damp towels around your nose, cheeks, and eyes. It will ease facial pain. Rinse your nasal passages. You can use a specially designed squeeze bottle (for a sinus rinse) or a neti pot. Using nasal lavage to clear your sinuses is an effective home remedy.
Make sure you drink plenty of fluids, such as water and juice. It will help reduce mucus and let it drain. Avoid caffeine or alcohol in your beverages, as they dehydrate you. Also, alcohol makes sinuses and swelling in the nose worse.
When to Consult a Doctor for a Sinus Infection:
A fever, whether chronic or acute, is not a typical symptom.
See an otolaryngologist for more advice and a diagnosis. A diagnosis of chronic or recurring sinusitis may require imaging and other tests. Our ENT specialists can examine the sinuses more closely and determine if any structural issues lead to chronic sinusitis.
Your Doctors Online has a team of specialists who can help you if you seek medical care. Talk to a doctor about sinusitis and get a prescription for it.
FAQs About Sinus Infection Answered by Your Doctors Online Team
It depends on the severity of the infection and inflammation. It may be possible to recover from this illness within 24 hours by following these remedies if it’s not severe.
1. Keep them hydrated by inhaling steam. A hot water shower is also an option. You can also inhale steam through it.
2. Before you go to sleep, use a humidifier. You won’t get a good night’s sleep if you have a nasal blockage.
3. A nasal decongestant can be used if hydration doesn’t work. It is useful when needed.
The following technique may help provide relief:
1. Tilt your head to one side if you are in the shower or standing over a sink.
2. Pour or squeeze the saline solution into the upper nostril using a squeeze bottle, bulb syringe, or Neti pot.
3. Make sure the solution flows out of the other nostril and down the drain.
4. Then repeat the process on the other side.