The Ins and Outs of Sinusitis: What Is It and What Can You Do About It?
Sinusitis is medically referred to as rhinosinusitis, and it is basically an infection of the sinuses that leads to the swelling and inflammation of the nasal cavities. The condition is typically caused by a viral infection, and it is not uncommon to continue experiencing symptoms of infection long after upper respiratory symptoms have disappeared. If sinusitis is not caused by a virus, then it is likely either a bacterial or, more rarely, a fungal infection. Conditions such as nasal polyps, allergies, and even tooth infections may contribute to the discomfort experienced by sinusitis and may exacerbate symptoms.
Chronic or Acute?
Determining whether your sinusitis is acute or chronic means paying careful attention to the entire duration of the infection. In the case of acute sinusitis, the infection lasts a short period of time, typically less than four weeks. This type is generally a result of suffering from a cold or respiratory ailment.
Chronic sinusitis, on the other hand, is either recurring or lasts more than twelve weeks. According to professionals, if you are experiencing infected discharge, facial pain, and congestion for 12 weeks or longer or having a recurring issue with the symptoms, then it is likely you are battling with chronic sinusitis. However, it is best to have your doctor make the final call because both acute and chronic sinusitis bear similar symptoms, and medical background helps decipher between the two more easily.
More on the Common Symptoms
As mentioned, facial pain, nasal discharge, and congestion are common symptoms of both acute and chronic sinus pain. Arguably one of the most uncomfortable symptoms of sinusitis can be facial pain. Your sinuses are located in various areas on your face – above and below the eyes and behind the nose. Any or all of these regions can hurt when you have sinusitis. The pain can best be described as a dull pressure or ache and is caused by the inflammation of these areas. You may even have this pain extend to the jawline or even to the forehead, teeth, or between the eyes.
Nasal discharge is something we’ve all had to deal with at some point in our lives — be it after suffering a cold or flu or even after shedding a few tears. However, a cloudy discharge or shades of green or yellow in nasal discharge is an indication of infection. The discharge is released by your infected sinuses and then drains into the nasal passages. In some cases, the discharge may bypass your nasal passages and drain down the throat, leading to either an itch, tickle, or strange sensation. When this occurs, it is termed as a postnasal drip which can lead to coughs at night when your head is tilted back and in the morning when you wake up. Your voice may even become hoarse, and your throat may become sore.
Naturally, with discharge being released from your sinuses and into your nasal passages, you will experience congestion, making breathing through your nose difficult. This congestion mars your ability to taste or smell, and you may find that you do not enjoy your food as much as you usually do!
There are many over-the-counter treatments available that can aid in relieving the symptoms of sinusitis. A particularly effective treatment is a nasal decongestant spray which offers short-term relief. However, prolonged use of this is not advisable as doing so may worsen symptoms — three days at most is recommended. Steroid-based nasal sprays do not pose the same risk, though, and may be used without concern of any rebound effects over prolonged use.
Antihistamines and decongestants in the form of syrups or pills can help reduce the discomfort associated with the symptoms, particularly if you have allergies contribute to your discomfort. However, decongestants are not recommended for those struggling with high blood pressure, sleep difficulties, glaucoma, or prostate issues.
A basic yet effective treatment is nasal irrigation which can be prepared and administered at home. Boiled and cooled tap water, or distilled water, is warmed and ½ a teaspoon each of salt and baking soda is dissolved into it to prepare a rinse. The saline solution is then used to flush the sinuses, relieving dryness and congestion by rinsing out the discharge.
As with any infection, if all else fails, then antibiotics come out to play — though these need to be a last resort and may have unwanted side effects. Inappropriate use or overuse of antibiotics leads to superbugs which is why this is the last resort.
A Last Word
While you can also opt for herbal or essential oil treatments, it is best not to prepare these yourself as that might do more harm than good. It is best to follow the advice of your doctor at all times and inform them of everything you’ve done to relieve your symptoms.
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