Sinus is a small cavity present within the underlying tissue or bone. They are common found on the nasal cavities and on the bones of the face. When these areas of tissue develop infection caused by virus or bacteria it leads to sinus infection. Sinus is also found on various other organs like heart, under the eyes and on the forehead. Sinus infection is not contagious and is caused by bacteria or virus and other pathogens. It causes swelling of concerned tissue which leads to abnormal mucus discharge.
The air cavities of the nose develop inflammation leading to cough and sneezing. Many times sinus infection develops due to allergic reactions. Antibiotics are given if the sinusitis is caused by bacterium. Acute sinus is caused often due to common cold. Chronic sinusitis can cause complications extending for many weeks.
Persistent cough, mucus discharge from the nose or throat, congestion in the nasal cavities, sore throat, pain and tenderness in the areas around the eyes and forehead and decreased sense of smell and taste are some of the signs of sinus infection. For many children/adults, cough gets worse during night. In addition there may be fever, headache and body pain. The phlegm produced will be greenish yellow in color with foul smell during sinus infection.
Additional pressure is applied on the sinus tissues which may cause headache for some people. The same pressure can cause itching of eyes, ear pain and bad breath. In case of rare fungal infection it may cause ulcers on the oral cavity and on the nasal region.
There is swelling of thin lining of mucous membranes of the nose when sinus infection develops. This additional swelling will not let out the mucus which was previously discharged normally from the nostrils. Sinus infection is caused by viral infection, bacterial or fungal infection. If the symptoms mentioned above continue for more than a week then it is likely to be of bacterial infection.
When the body’s immunity gets weakened for other reasons it can cause fungal infection. Nasal polyps or tumors in the nasal passage, hay fever, allergic fever and tooth infection can cause sinusitis. Certain medical disorders like GERD (a reflux disease), cystic fibrosis and disorders in the body’s immune system can induce sinusitis. Common cold, exposure to allergies like dust or smoke, cigarette smoke can block the nasal passage leading to sinus infection.
Sinus infection is classified according to the time span the disease takes. Acute sinusitis is one which exists for few days or weeks whereas chronic sinusitis may continue for months together causing nasal blockage and runny nose.
Risk Factors :
You are likely to develop sinus infection when you are exposed to allergic smoke, chemicals, dust, or grains. Any deviation in the nasal septum or development of nasal tumors or polyps can cause sinus infection. People who are habitually smoking are more likely to develop sinusitis than others. In rare cases, sinus infection may develop into asthma attack, if left untreated for several weeks. If the infectious bacteria or virus spreads to the bloodstream it may reach the brain causing meningitis. In rare cases, the infection can severely damage the eye socket leading to loss of vision.
Your doctor will physically examine the body looking more particularly on your nose and throat. He will examine the nasal passage to check for any inflammation or development of any polyps inside. He may recommend a nasal endoscopy to inspect the nasal passage clearly. For severe cases, CT or MRI scan is done for ruling out any abnormalities inside.
Often acute type of sinus infection do not require any treatment if it is caused by common cold. You can try home remedies to get relief from symptoms. You can use decongestants in the form of tablets or nasal sprays for managing most of the symptoms of acute sinusitis. Your doctor may prescribe saline nasal spray to clear off the nasal blockage. Corticosteroid medications like Flonase, Nasonex, Budesonide, Nasacort and Beconase are largely prescribed for treating inflammation.
In case of fatigue or fever you can use aspirin or Tylenol for getting relief from pain. But it is not recommended for children. Avoid taking antibiotics since sinus infection is caused by virus. Unless it is bacterial infection antibiotics should not be used. For severe bacterial infection medications like Amoxil, doxycycline or Monodox are prescribed. Once your doctor gives you antibiotics ensure that you are completing the course of the medication. If you stop them after getting relief from symptoms, it can come back within few days.
If the sinusitis is caused by fungal infection, your doctor may prescribe antifungal drugs. If the root cause is weakened immunity then you will be put on immunotherapy. Chronic sinus infection can be treated by taking long course of drugs like Augmentin. In severe cases, surgery is done for clearing/opening the blocked sinus tissues.
Home Remedies :
Most of the symptoms of acute sinusitis can be managed by simple home remedies. You need to drink plenty of water/fluids to keep yourself hydrated. Avoid taking coffee/tea/alcohol since it may worsen the symptoms. Take complete rest to help the body fight against infections which would speed-up the process of recovery.
Warm compression can be applied on the entire face to loosen the blocked sinuses. Try using neti pot or other rinsing methods for clearing off the sinuses. It may be difficult for you to breathe normally while having sinus infection. Hence keep your head elevated position by adding more pillows.
You cannot prevent sinus infection but you can avoid allergy causing environment. No vaccine has been developed against sinusitis. Cigarette smoke in any form can gradually damage the tissues of the lungs blocking nasal passage. So, avoid active/passive smoking. Allergy may be the real culprit of sinus infection and hence you need to get tested for allergic infection and treat the same. Treating the underlying problem is vital to prevent getting chronic sinusitis.