Learn About Sinusitis

Sinusitis Overview

Sinusitis affects 37 million people each year, making it one of the most common health problems in the U.S. It is more prevalent than heart disease and asthma and has a greater impact on quality of life than chronic back pain or congestive heart failure.

When you have acute or chronic sinusitis, the mucous membranes of your nose, sinuses and throat become inflamed, possibly from a pre-existing cold or allergies. Swelling obstructs the sinus openings and prevents normal mucus drainage, causing mucus and pressure to build up. Symptoms include: drainage of a thick, yellow or greenish discharge from the nose or down the back of the throat; nasal obstruction or congestion; tenderness and swelling around the eyes, cheeks, nose and forehead; and/or a reduced sense of smell and taste. Learn more about sinusitus.

Types of Sinusitis

Many sinusitis cases are acute, but if sinusitis symptoms last longer than 12 weeks, it could be chronic sinusitis. Structural issues such as blockage of the sinus opening can also lead to chronic sinusitis.

A diagram of the human sinuses.

A Look into the Sinuses

The sinuses are hollow spaces in the skull (i.e. the frontal, ethmoid, sphenoid and maxillary) which serve to lighten the skull and give resonance to the voice. The purpose of the sinuses, which open into the nasal cavity, is to generate mucus to keep the nose from drying out during breathing and to trap unwanted materials so that they do not reach the lungs.

Each sinus has an opening that allows mucus to drain – this drainage is essential to keeping your sinuses working well and you healthy. Anything that obstructs that flow may cause a buildup of mucus and lead to a sinus infection.

Facts About Sinusitis

  • Sinusitis affects approximately 14% of the adult U.S. population. 
  • Sinusitis affects 17% of women and 10% of men each year. 
  • Chronic sinusitis (not including acute sinusitis) results annually in an estimated 7 million physician office visits. 
  • Direct healthcare expenditures due to sinusitis costs are well over $8 billion each year. 
  • Total restricted activity days due to sinusitis are over 58 million per year.
  • Up to 60% of patients are not successfully treated with sinus medication. When medical management methods are not enough to relieve patients’ symptoms, sinus surgery may be recommended. 

Sinusitis treatment includes medical and natural therapy, as well as sinus surgery. An Ear, Nose and Throat doctor (ENT doctor) can diagnose acute or chronic sinusitis and determine the best treatment plan.

Chronic Sinusitis Symptoms

Is It Allergies, a Cold or Sinusitis?

If you are like many patients, you may have misdiagnosed yourself as having allergies or a cold, when you actually have sinusitis. It’s important to see your primary care doctor or an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor to get a proper diagnosis.

Sinusitis (also called rhinosinusitis) is an inflammation of the sinus lining that prevents normal mucus drainage through the nose. This blockage causes mucus to build up in the sinuses and can lead to very uncomfortable symptoms.

Sinusitis symptoms may include: 

  • Sinus pressure and congestion
  • Sinus Headache
  • Facial pain
  • Tenderness and swelling around the eyes, cheeks, nose and forehead
  • Difficulty breathing through the nose
  • Loss of the sense of smell or taste
  • Yellow or green mucus from the nose
  • Teeth pain
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat from nasal discharge
  • Bad breath

After listening to your history of symptoms and conducting an exam, your doctor may diagnose you with acute sinusitis, which is a temporary inflammation of the sinus lining that is caused by a bacterial infection and commonly called a sinus infection. For acute sinusitis, your doctor may recommend saline nasal sprays, antibiotics, nasal steroid sprays, decongestants and over-the-counter pain relievers to help relieve the condition.

If your symptoms do not resolve with medication, or if you experience symptoms for longer than 12 weeks, you could have chronic sinusitis.

Sinuses, normal and blocked

Chronic sinusitis treatment aims to lessen or eliminate the symptoms caused by inflamed or blocked sinuses. An ENT doctor is qualified to diagnose chronic sinusitis and determine the best sinusitis treatment options for you.

Chronic Sinusitis Treatment Options

Chronic sinus infections and pressure headaches can be so painful, it may be difficult to breathe and function during every day activities. If you suffer from chronic sinusitis, your primary care doctor is likely to refer you to an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist (ENT doctor). An ENT doctor will determine the best chronic sinusitis treatment plan for you.

Typical chronic sinusitis treatment begins with medication, which may include homeopathic, over-the-counter and prescription medications, which may include:

  • Decongestants
  • Nasal steroids – Antibiotics – Mucus thinning drugs – decongestants
  • Oral steroids

Natural remedies, including cool and hot mist vaporizers, steam, Neti Pot and sinus rinsing.

Healthcare professionals often find it difficult to treat the majority of chronic sinusitis sufferers with medication. It is estimated that up to 60% of sinusitis sufferers do not get relief with medication .

Sinus Surgery for Chronic Sinusitis Treatment

Safe and effective, Balloon Sinuplasty is a minimally invasive, breakthrough technology used by a qualified ENT doctor to treat chronic sinusitis patients who have sinusitis symptoms that have not responded to sinus medications and therapies. Studies report durable results lasting up to two years after the procedure.

In some areas, Balloon Sinuplasty can be performed right in the ENT doctor’s office under local anesthesia. The doctor begins by inserting a small, flexible balloon catheter into the nose to reach the inflamed sinus. The sinus balloon is slowly inflated to restructure the blocked nasal passage.

Unlike conventional sinus surgery, Balloon Sinuplasty preserves the normal anatomy of the sinuses and mucosal tissue, and does not require the removal of bone and tissue.

Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery (FESS)

Previously, the only surgical option for clearing blocked sinuses was known as functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS), which removes bone and tissue from the nose to enlarge the sinus opening. This removal of bone and tissue can require uncomfortable nasal packing after surgery and lead to post-surgery pain and scarring.

Since 2005, more than 250,000 patients have been treated safely by physicians using  Balloon Sinuplasty technology.

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