As the summer ends and we find ourselves in back-to-school days, viruses and bacteria that we have picked up over the summer have a chance to rear their ugly heads in classrooms and offices everywhere. The onset of cold and flu season results in runny noses and sneezing, which help the microorganisms hitch a ride to the next host. While most infections are nothing to worry about, some can result in serious sinus infections.
Sinus infections, or sinusitis, affects 31 million people in the United States. Many times, sinus infections are mistaken for a bad cold. But unlike a cold, a sinus infection is caused by a bacterial infection and often requires antibiotics.
You might be surprised to know that low oxygen is what makes sinuses prone to becoming infected. The sinuses are lined with a thin membrane that produces mucus, which is normally swept along by “sweeper cells” and drains through small openings into the nasal cavity. If the mucous membrane becomes swollen enough to close the opening, it blocks off the oxygen to the sinus. The sweeper cells can no longer sweep, but the mucous membrane continues to secrete mucous, which can cause unpleasant and painful symptoms, including:
- Postnasal drip
- Discolored nasal discharge
- Nasal stuffiness or congestion
- Tenderness of the face (particularly under the eyes or at the bridge of the nose)
- Tooth pain
- Bad breath
It’s important to determine if a sinus infection is viral or bacterial to properly treat it. If it’s viral, it typically lasts less than two weeks. If it is a bacterial infection, antibiotics are usually prescribed. However, sinus inflammation can take on a life of its own. Even after being treated with antibiotics, some people experience reoccurring symptoms.
The key is to restore the oxygen flow and to re-establish mucus transport. There are several different treatment options available to you depending on the severity of your sinus infection, including:
- Nasal decongestants
- Topical nasal corticosteroids
- Nasal saline washes
- Minimally invasive surgery
To determine the best course of action for you, a visit to see our expert care team at Sierra Nevada Ear, Nose & Throat may be just what you need to turn your sinus infection around. Call 775.883.7666 to make an appointment today.