Sinuses are essentially empty cavities in your skull. Sinuses are lined with a delicate lining called mucosa and are coated with mucus. They are thought to lighten the skull and to provide resonance to the voice. Unfortunately, there are a few common problems with sinuses. The drainage holes (ostia) for the sinuses are very small and easily obstructed by inflammation resulting from allergies or upper respiratory viral infections. Bacteria are always trying to get into your sinuses, which is not a big problem as long as the sinus drainage holes remain open. But if the
sinus drainage holes close, the bacteria multiply, and a sinus infection develops.
HOW DO I TELL A SINUS INFECTION (SINUSITIS) FROM ALLERGIES OR A VIRAL UPPER RESPIRATORY INFECTION (URI)?
Cough, headache, sinus pain, nasal congestion, runny nose and post-nasal drip can be due to allergies, a viral upper respiratory infection (URI) or sinusitis, so these symptoms are not usually helpful in diagnosing sinusitis. Simple upper respiratory infections typically last from 3 to 10 days. Sinus congestion and drainage that increase after a week of illness may be sinusitis. With chronic sinusitis, symptoms are usually less severe or even minimal and may persist for months or years.
CAN I HAVE A SINUS HEADACHE WITHOUT A SINUS INFECTION?
A sinus headache is usually caused by closure of those sinus drainage holes, the ostia. This is often due to allergies or a viral URI. Most sinus headaches are not caused by sinus infections.
ARE THERE TESTS TO DIAGNOSE SINUSITIS?
Physicians often have difficulty telling the difference between a sinus infection, allergies and a viral
upper respiratory infection. Unfortunately, there is no great office-based test for sinusitis. Dr. Feigenbaum may order a sinus CT scan for patients if he needs more information, however, this is usually not necessary.
HOW IS SINUSITIS TREATED?
If an infection is present, antibiotics may be prescribed, but research has shown that many people are capable of recovering from a sinus infection without antibiotics. Topical nasal steroids may speed up resolution of an infection.
Lieberman SM, Jacobs JB, Lebowitz RA, Fitzgerald MB, Crawford J, Feigenbaum BA. Measurement of Mycotoxins in Patients with Chronic Rhinosinusitis. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg, 2011;145(2): 327–29
(Dr. Feigenbaum was the "Principal Investigator" of this study.)
(Acute Sinusitis, Chronic Sinusitis, Sinus Infection, Nasal Polyps, Sinus Headache)
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