Infection caused due to inflammation of the sinuses and nasal passages is termed as sinus infection or sinusitis. It can be caused due to bacterial or viral infection or due to allergies. Sinusitis can be either acute viral sinusitis that lasts for about 4 weeks or chronic sinusitis that continues for more than 4 weeks or keeps recurring. Chronic sinusitis caused due to infection, nasal tumors, polyps or allergies should be evaluated by specialists without delay. In very rare cases chronic sinusitis develops due to upper tooth abscess that has spread to the sinuses present above it. Delay in treatment of chronic sinusitis can result in complications such as meningitis, asthma flare-ups, Aneurysms and vision problems.
Sinus infection symptoms can develop in any of the four groups of sinuses frontal, maxillary, sphenoid or ethmoid . Both chronic and acute sinusitis show similar symptoms.
- Headache : Blocking of sinuses results in severe headache that is even more painful upon bending due to additional pressure on sinuses.
- Nasal congestion : This is due to blockage of the nasal passages by mucous or due to swollen mucous membranes. Nasal congestion also develops due to damage of cilia, thin hair like structures lining the mucous membranes. Cilia are mainly associated with the draining of mucous out of sinuses.
- Increased nasal discharge : Yellow or greenish discharge from the nose is an indication for bacterial infection of the sinus. The mucous can slide down back the throat generally known as Postnasal drip. Clear nasal discharge associated with sneezes is an indication for non infectious sinusitis caused by allergens or irritants.
- Itchy eyes are also observed in patients with non infectious sinusitis.
- Fever: Spread of the infection beyond sinuses often results in fever and chills.
- Swelling and pain in the affected sinuses : infection of Ethomoid sinuses causes pain between the eyes, headache, infection of the skin around the eye sockets and toothache. Maxillary sinusitis results in pain below the eyes, headache, toothache and also pain over the cheeks. Frontal sinusitis causes pain over the forehead. Sphenoid sinusitis causes pain in the back and front side of the head.
- Sore throat.
- Sinusitis caused by fungal infections is characterized by presence of black necrotic region in the nasal area. Black exudates may also be observed in the nasal discharge. Fungal infection should be addressed immediately as it may even result in death.
- Productive cough that generally occurs at night.
- Fatigue: The person feels weak and even the face looks dull and tired.
- Bad breath or halitosis.
- Hyposmia or Lowered ability to smell
Chronic conditions may also result change in vision. In few cases, complete blindness may occur within few minutes or hours of developing swelling around the eyes. Such cases should be treated by a physician as early as possible.
Sinus infection symptoms can be treated by diagnosing the right cause for disease. Even chronic sinusitis can be kept under control by taking necessary precautions and medications. Before starting the treatment the doctor does some diagnostic tests to confirm the sinus infection symptoms given by the patient as well as those observed by physical examination. X-ray of the sinuses, Computer tomography and tooth x-ray are generally done to confirm sinusitis.
Treatment for Sinus infection symptoms aims at clearing the sinus drainage and eliminating the underlying cause such as bacterial infection, allergy or nasal polyps.
- Congestion can be relieved by inhalation of hot steam, by placing towels dipped in hot water over the sinuses and by taking hot beverages.
- To drain nasal passages saline nasal sprays or nasal corticosteroids such as fluticasone, mometasone or triamcinolone can be used to reduce inflammation.
- Sinusitis due to bacterial infection is treated with antibiotics such as amoxicillin, trimethorprim or sulfamethoxazole. In chronic conditions antibiotics such as clavulanate and orcefuroxime are used. Antibiotics should be changed if the infection does not get treated. It is very important to use full dose of antibiotics to prevent symptoms from coming back.
- Oral corticosteroids such as prednisone or methylprednisolone are used to treat sinusitis due to nasal polyps. Use of these corticosteroids for long term causes severe side effects hence they should be used to treat chronic asthma symptoms.
- Decongestants that are available over the counter can be used to reduce congestion. They are generally available as tablets, syrups or sprays. Increased intake of fluids helps to thin the mucus and reduce congestion to some extent.
- Pain in the affected sinuses region can be relieved with pain killers such as aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen.
- Chronic sinusitis due to allergy is treated with immunotherapy in which allergy shots to a specific allergen are given to reduce immune system reaction to the allergen.
- Conditions that do not respond to any of the above treatment options and persist for a very long time are treated by performing endoscopic surgery of the affected sinus region to clear the sinus drainage and to reduce inflammation. Patient can refrain to normal routine after five to seven days of surgery but complete recovery takes about a month.
- Sinus infection symptoms due to fungi are treated with antifungal drugs such as Amphotericin B.
For effective results of all these treatment options it is essential for cigarette smokers to refrain from smoking.
Prevention and precautions
As feared by many all sinus infections are not contagious. Sinus infection symptoms caused due to allergens and irritants are not infectious. However, those caused by bacterial, viral or fungal infections are infectious. But, Painful sinusitis can be prevented by following simple preventive measures such as
- Taking required immunizations on time. There are no specific vaccines for sinusitis. But, taking influenza vaccination against certain viruses and bacteria helps to prevent infectious sinusitis greatly.
- Maintaining good hygiene. Make sure to wash hands with soap before having meals.
- Avoiding contact with people suffering with cold, cough and other respiratory infections.
- Maintaining the moisture content of the air in the room by using humidifier. Clean the humidifier periodically to prevent molds and fungal infections.
- Avoiding exposure to second hand smoke and smoking.
- Keeping allergies under control by taking required precautions and medications.
Sinus infection symptoms are not very dangerous if taken care immediately. It is highly recommended to consult a physician if the temperature is higher than 104 degrees or if the symptoms persist for more than ten days or if the symptoms do not subside with over the counter drugs .