Spring is finally here, which means warmer temperatures are on the horizon and flowers are in bloom.
While spring is often known as a time when many suffer from allergies, there is also a rise in cases of sinusitis at this time of year, regularly known as a sinus infection or sinus disease.
The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology reports that approximately 31 million Americans develop a form of sinus disease annually.
Sinusitis is the inflammation of the sinuses, which are air-filled cavities located behind the forehead, cheekbones, nose and eyes. Cilia, tiny hair-like bodies inside of the sinuses, sweep up mucus toward openings that lead to the back of the throat. Sinusitis occurs if obstruction or congestion cause the sinus openings to become blocked, resulting in the mucus buildup, infection and inflammation.
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The most common symptom of a sinus infection is pain. Swelling and inflammation within the sinuses cause aches and pains in the forehead, nose, jaws and teeth. Other symptoms include congestion, fever, cough, swelling of the eyes, cheeks and jaws, runny nose, discolored postnasal discharge, halitosis, nausea, fatigue and sore throat.
To diagnose sinusitis, a physician will examine the throat, nose and sinuses for swelling, redness, facial tenderness and discolored discharge. Most people experience an acute sinus disease, which lasts three to eight weeks. Those who experience a sinus disease longer than eight weeks are diagnosed with having chronic sinus disease, which can lead to additional tests, such as a CT scan of the sinus area.
Bacterial infections are often the cause of most cases of sinusitis, with viruses and fungi being additional causes. If your doctor notices a more severe type of sinus disease, it may be necessarily for you to also see an allergist or otolaryngologist, a physician trained to treat diseases and disorders of the ear, nose and throat.
Both specialists can confirm whether the sinus disease is caused by factors such as allergies, asthma, structural damage or a weak immune system. Seasonal allergens, such as pollen can cause symptoms to appear. Other allergens such as mold, pet dander and dust can cause sinus disease symptoms to develop year-round.
The ACAAI reports sinusitis is responsible for 16 million doctor visits, more than $1 billion spent on over-the-counter medication and $150 million spent on prescription medications in America. Treatment for sinusitis depends on the severity of the infection, but antibiotics, nasal decongestants, antihistamines and nasal sprays are common forms of treatment to help relieve symptoms.
Home treatments can also help, and often include drinking plenty of fluids, applying a hot, damp tower to your face, breathing in warm, moist air from a shower or sink, and avoiding alcohol.
If you believe you are suffering from a sinus disease, visit a physician for a proper diagnosis and treatment options. Addressing sinusitis early on can help you avoid avoiding further complications.
Dr. Robert E. Wilson is with Saint Joseph Ear, Nose and Throat Center.