Sneezing, coughing, a runny nose – the symptoms persist even after taking an over the counter medication for several days. Each year more than 37 million Americans suffer from sinusitis but think they are battling a cold or allergies instead. It’s easy to do because the symptoms can appear similar but the causes are different.
Sinuses are air-filled spaces found in the bones of your face and head, and are considered healthy when they are open and clear. Sinusitis occurs when the tissue lining of the sinuses becomes inflamed or swollen, filling with fluid and bacteria instead of air.
A cold is caused by a virus and can be transmitted to another person when you sneeze or cough. Sinus infections, caused by bacteria, are not contagious and can be treated with an antibiotic, decongestant, mucus thinners and nasal spray.
What are the signs and symptoms of acute sinusitis?
• Facial pressure and pain
• Nasal Congestion
• Pain in upper teeth
• Bad breath
• Decreased taste
• Symptoms appear to last more than 10 days
Your doctor may examine your ears and nose and look into your throat, checking on your sinuses by tapping your forehead and cheek. An antibiotic may be prescribed to bring relief from the symptoms.
Sometimes, even after taking medication, the symptoms still do not go away. Alternative tests and treatments may be needed to prevent further damage, unblock the sinuses or decipher any allergies present. An otolaryngologist, also called an ENT, can help treat patients with persistent sinus issues. An ENT has special expertise in sinus and nasal conditions and can practice both medicine and surgery.
Using a nasal endoscope, an ENT can obtain a deep culture in these difficult cases. The culture helps identify the specific bacteria infecting the sinuses and a more precise antibiotic can be chosen. In addition, chronic sinus patients may benefit from a CT scan, ordered by an ENT. If the CT scan reveals a blockage, sinus surgery can be advantageous for some patients. In addition, chronic sinus patients should undergo allergy testing.
Surgery may be required to unblock the sinus passages. The two most common methods are balloon sinuplasty and powered instrumentation. Depending on your individual case, an ENT can determine which method is best for you.
Dr. Joel Hoffman, board certified in ENT and sleep medicine, practices at North Atlanta Ear, Nose & Throat Associates in Cumming. He can be reached at (770) 292-3045 or visit www.naenta.com for more information.