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Sinusitis: Causes, symptoms and treatment

Published on March 23, 2021 at 18:41 / Updated on March 23, 2021 at 19:38

Are you experiencing severe nasal congestion, bothersome headaches and pressure in your face? You may be suffering from sinusitis. Before going to your doctor, you should take a few minutes to read this article in order to know a little more about the subject.

What is sinusitis?

The sinuses are cavities in the bones of the face. There are four pairs of sinuses, located around the nose and eyes, which are connected to the nasal cavity by small openings. The sinuses produce useful mucus that cleanses the nose. Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinuses that congests and blocks the openings between the sinuses and the nasal cavity. Mucus builds up, creating an environment for viruses and bacteria.


Sinuses

How long does sinusitis last?

There are two types of sinusitis: acute and chronic. Acute sinusitis is referred to as an illness lasting less than 4 weeks. Conversely, chronic sinusitis, as the name suggests, will last longer, over 12 weeks.

What causes sinusitis?

As mentioned earlier, sinusitis can be caused by a viral or bacterial infection. One of the most common causes is a cold. Other risk factors can promote the development of sinusitis, such as:

  • Allergies (to animals, dust, mites, etc.)
  • Smoking
  • The use of certain chemical products
  • Atmospheric pollution
  • A deviated nasal septum

What are the symptoms?

Sinusitis, whether acute or chronic, is usually accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Decrease/loss of smell
  • Facial pain, tooth pain and headaches
  • Greenish or yellowish nasal discharge
  • A fatty cough (secretions go down the throat)
  • Possible fever with general discomfort
  • Bad breath

In chronic sinusitis, the symptoms last longer.

Is sinusitis contagious?

Since sinusitis can be caused by a virus or bacteria, the illness is therefore contagious, particularly through direct contact with infected secretions.

Who are most at risk?

  • Children (because they contract multiple colds in a year)
  • People with allergies
  • Asthmatics
  • People with abnormalities in the nose
  • People with immunity disorders (which may be caused by illnesses or medications, for example)
  • People with cystic fibrosis

When should you seek medical attention for sinusitis?

Although sinusitis is often mild and generally resolves on its own, it’s important to see a doctor in the following cases:

  • Severe fever
  • Pain on one side that increases in intensity
  • Pain in the eye
  • A severe headache which may be accompanied by discomfort in the light
  • Symptoms that last for more than a week, or get worse despite treatment

What are the treatments?

There are non-pharmacological measures that can relieve symptoms of sinusitis:

  • Get rest to better fight infection
  • Drink hot beverages
  • Make sure your home’s air humidity is adequate (use a humidifier if necessary)
  • Rinse the nasal passages with saline water solutions

There are also medications. The goal of treatment is to improve sinus drainage, increase comfort and eliminate infection. These medications include:

  • Analgesics to reduce headaches
  • Decongestants to reduce nasal congestion
  • Cortisone sprays to reduce sinus inflammation
  • Antihistamines to reduce allergies
  • Antibiotics to eradicate the culprit bacteria

It’s important to consult a healthcare professional, such as a pharmacist, in order to choose the right analgesic according to your pharmacological record.

Decongestants for sinusitis

As for decongestants, it should be noted that spray decongestants should be used for a short time only. When used for too long a period, the congestion can rebound. Oral decongestants, on the other hand, have certain precautions and contraindications to consider. This is because they may cause increased blood pressure and a faster pulse, which can be problematic in patients with heart problems. They can also cause insomnia. It’s always important to consult a healthcare professional to make sure the product is right for you.

Cortisone vaporizers can potentially provide relief, but their effect is limited and won’t be immediate.

Antibiotics for sinusitis

It’s important to know that antibiotics aren’t always the solution, because they only attack bacteria, not viruses. Viruses cause the majority of sinusitis, so antibiotics are unnecessary in these cases. Also, even if bacteria cause sinusitis, antibiotics are not automatically necessary. In fact, antibiotics can cause side effects that are more bothersome than the sinusitis itself. In addition, overuse of antibiotics can lead to the formation of bacteria resistant to their effect. The appropriate use of antibiotics is therefore essential. A thorough medical examination will allow the doctor to decide on the need and relevance of an antibiotic treatment.

Can sinusitis be prevented?

As contagion passes through contact with infected secretions, prevention primarily involves hygiene measures like hand washing, as well as respiratory etiquette (coughing into the crook of your elbow and immediately disposing of used tissues). Hygiene and respiratory etiquette also prevent the transmission of infections that can lead to sinusitis, such as colds and flu. Getting the flu shot is also a good way to prevent the flu, which can cause sinusitis. Lastly, eliminating tobacco and certain allergens are also measures to consider.

Sinusitis is an illness that can cause great discomfort. Don’t hesitate to consult your pharmacist at any time, as they can advise you on ways to relieve the symptoms or refer you to a doctor if they deem it necessary.  

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