WHAT ARE SINUSES?
Sinuses are air-filled cavities within your cheekbone, around your eyes, and behind your nose. Their linings produce a protective layer of mucus to trap inhaled particles and bacteria. Anything causing swelling in your nose also affects your sinuses because the sinus lining continues into your nose.
WHAT IS SINUSITIS?
It is an inflammation (swelling) of the sinuses. Allergies, viruses or bacteria can cause this inflammation. When your sinuses swell, mucus cannot drain properly. As the mucus accumulates, viruses and bacteria get trapped, multiply and cause an infection. “Acute” sinus infections last less than 3-4 weeks. “Chronic” sinus infections last more than 12 weeks.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
One or more of the following:
- green or yellow nasal discharge
- facial pain and tenderness
- loss of smell
- postnasal drip
- swelling around eyes
- stuffy nose
- bad breath
- worsening of asthma
HOW DO YOU DIAGNOSE SINUSITIS?
Sometimes sinusitis can be diagnosed with a history and physical exam. Some doctors will order a sinus x-ray or CT scan. Instead of these, we prefer a very simple, safe and inexpensive test called a “nasal smear”. You blow your nose into a zip lock bag at home, or wax paper in the office. If no mucus is available, we will swab your nose with a Q-tip. We stain the sample, place it under a microscope and examine for allergic, viral or bacterial cells.
HOW DO YOU TREAT SINUSITIS?
- Initially, decongestant sprays can be used to open your nasal passages. At times oral steroids may be required.
- Antibiotics will usually clear a bacterial sinus infection. However, 20% of the time the first antibiotic is not effective and we must follow up with a different antibiotic.
- Allergy shots will often prevent recurrent bacterial sinus infections. They control the allergic inflammation that sets the stage for infection.