Sinuses are air spaces behind the cheekbones and nose and above the eyes. The number of sinuses is different for everyone; most people have four sets, but some people may have fewer. Because sinuses differ from person to person, the length of our sinus infections will, too. While most sinus infections will resolve in 10 to 14 days, others can linger. A sinus infection that lasts for more than three months is called chronic sinusitis.
The Cause of Sinus Infections
When someone has an infection or an allergy, the sinus tissues can become swollen. The nature of this type of infection can be viral or bacterial. The only way to determine the cause is to take a culture from the interior of the nose.
No matter the cause of the sinus infection, the resulting inflammation interferes with the way air and mucus move from the sinuses to the nose. Under normal, healthy conditions, cilia, or tiny, hair-like structures inside the sinuses, help move mucus through the sinuses.
Generally, when someone has a sinus infection, they experience symptoms ranging from a stuffy nose to pressure in the face where the sinuses are located. They may also feel tired, have smell or taste issues, and other cold-related symptoms.
Risk Factor For Chronic Sinusitis
There are several factors that can cause a normal sinus infection to develop into chronic sinusitis. Sometimes the cause is bacteria that take up residence in the blocked airways of the face. Other times polyps may form inside the sinuses.
Allergies, immune system problems and certain dental diseases are all potential causes of chronic sinus infections. Additionally, the anatomy of a person’s sinuses can make them more prone to long-term sinus problems.
Getting A Chronic Sinusitis Diagnosis
Doctors can conduct several tests to help determine the cause of a sinus infection that won’t go away. These include:
- Imaging tests: A CT or MRI can show if there’s a deep inflammation or physical blockage in the sinuses.
- Physical test: Doctors insert a thin, flexible tube with a fiber-optic light into the nose to look for blockages, such as polyps.
- Allergy test: Allergists can use an allergy skin test to reveal if an allergen is responsible for sinus problems.
- Culture samples: A nose swab inside the nose can determine if bacteria or fungi are the cause of the sinus infection.
Treatment For Chronic Sinusitis
The best treatment for a long-term sinus condition will depend on the cause of the chronic sinusitis. If allergies are the culprit, methods like irrigating with a saline solution, using a nasal steroid spray, or taking antihistamines can help.
If polyps are the cause, a doctor may prescribe oral or injected corticosteroids. Infections caused by fungi can be treated with antifungal treatment.
Doctors may prescribe antibiotics if the cause of chronic sinusitis is bacterial. Finally, if other treatments and medications don’t prove effective, endoscopic sinus surgery may offer relief to remove tissue or polyps that are blocking the sinuses.
If you are seeking treatment for sinus concerns, asthma or allergies, contact Columbia Allergy, with convenient locations in California, Oregon, Idaho, or Washington. We take a patient-focused approach that views every person as an individual with unique challenges and goals.