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Sinusitis is a common disorder that affects at least 12% of people in the United States at least once in their lives. It can often arise during illnesses such as the flu and the common cold. Every year, millions of people suffer from sinusitis, and many simply don’t seek out help when they need it. When this happens, ENT professionals often see otherwise minor cases after they’ve already become chronic problems.
There are different types of sinusitis that can cause different symptoms, and not understanding these differences can be dangerous. The following information outlines the different types of sinusitis and their common symptoms. Hopefully, those with sinus infections can gain a better understanding of why this is one condition that should not be ignored.
While sinus infections can be caused by many different types of foreign bodies, viruses are to blame for most cases. The common cold is a common culprit, though not the only viral condition responsible.
Sinusitis, whether viral or of another origin, normally begins as an upper respiratory tract infection. 90% of colds involve some form of sinusitis, though the symptoms may not always be obvious.
When symptoms are present in viral sinusitis, one of the first signs is often fluid or mucus congestion within the sinuses and nasal cavity. This can cause inflammation and secondary bacterial infections. Headache, halitosis (bad breath), coughing, facial pressure, and dental pain are some of the more common symptoms seen in this disorder.
However, viral sinusitis, should not be ignored, particularly when it involves secondary bacterial infections. While many cases resolve on their own, treatment by a knowledgeable medical expert is often necessary in order to prevent more serious symptoms from occurring.
A condition known as sphenoid sinusitis, which is seen in about 2.7% of sinusitis cases, can lead to serious symptoms that can be life-threatening. The sphenoid sinus is a space that is in very close proximity to vital nerves, so meningitis and brain abscesses can occur if this condition is not treated quickly.
Fungal sinusitis is a potentially life-threatening form of sinusitis that is classified into different types based on how deeply mold or yeasts have spread into an individual’s nasal cavity or body. The two main categories for this condition include invasive and non-invasive types.
Common symptoms of the non-invasive type include headaches, dizziness, mood swings, nausea, and vomiting. While both types can cause symptoms in individuals, invasive fungal sinusitis can be a significant threat because it can spread to nerves bones, and blood vessels. Symptoms of the invasive type can be much more severe and can include paralysis and pain in the face or other body parts, proptosis (a protruding eyeball), severe headaches, and recurrent nasal drainage.
While humans are regularly exposed to different types of fungi in the air without sinusitis taking place, some people, particularly those who are immunocompromised, are often at greater risk of developing this condition.
Fungal sinusitis often requires a surgical procedure in which the fungus and any remnants of it are removed from a patient’s sinuses or other nearby areas.
One type of sinusitis that’s caused by bacteria is a condition known as acute bacterial rhinosinusitis (ABRS). In this condition, bacteria can cause inflammation of the tissue lining in both the nasal cavity and sinuses. The inflammation alone can cause symptoms, but this condition often becomes worse when mucus forms and is unable to drain from these areas properly.
Symptoms of ABRS can include headache, nasal congestion, facial pain, fever, various ear problems, and a wide range of other symptoms. Sinusitis caused by bacterial infections can lead to much more severe symptoms if not treated correctly and appropriately.
When ABRS is not treated, it can progress to chronic rhinosinusitis, which can be more difficult to treat. Antibiotics are the first line of treatment for this condition, but saline cleansing, surgery, or other treatments may be necessary, depending on how severe a patient’s condition is.
Individuals with chronic allergies, swimmers, drug abusers, and anyone suffering from tooth infections are all at an increased risk of experiencing a bacterial infection in the nasal and sinus spaces, which can lead to this condition.
Regardless of the cause, chronic sinusitis can occur after any sinus infection has lasted for 3 months or longer. Once the condition reaches this point, a person’s quality of life can significantly decrease.
While the initial case of sinusitis may have been caused by an infection, long-term inflammation within the sinuses can lead to an autoimmune response by the body. When this happens, a person’s immune system can continue to cause inflammation, leading to many symptoms, even long after an infection has been successfully treated.
At this point, other treatment measures or medications are sometimes necessary, as the diagnosis can change from one disorder to another. In addition to many of the same symptoms a patient can experience during acute infections, symptoms of chronic sinusitis can include polyps, which are abnormal growths, and scarring of nasal tissue (fibrosis).
Ostial function, which is the ability of the sinuses to drain mucus and fluids, can become affected when nasal polyps obstruct the airways that normally facilitate drainage. When this happens, these polyps must normally be removed with surgical treatment.
Because it’s difficult for individuals to determine on their own what type of sinusitis they have and how severe it may be, it’s important to consult with someone who is knowledgeable and knows how to diagnose sinus infections.
If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms, you should speak to an ENT doctor in Philadelphia PA immediately. With advancements in nasal endoscopy technology and x-ray imaging, a qualified professional can easily provide a quick and accurate diagnosis, as well as the most appropriate treatment plan.