Sinusitis is a medical term that means that your sinuses are inflamed (irritated and swollen), usually because of an infection. If you've been congested, your head feels "stuffy", you have a bad headache, and you feel pressure or pain around your eyes (especially over your cheeks), it could be sinusitis. Read on to learn more about this condition and how it's treated.
What are your sinuses?
Your sinuses are small spaces in your skull that are filled with air. They're located behind your eyes, cheeks, forehead, and nasal (nose) bones. They're lined with mucus membranes that work to keep your nose from becoming dry and also trap bacteria so that it doesn't get into your lungs.
What causes sinusitis?
Sinusitis often starts with a viral infection such as a cold, which can cause your sinuses to become inflamed, or "blocked". When your sinuses are blocked, too much mucus builds up and doesn't drain properly. Bacteria then get trapped in your sinuses where it's easy for them to multiply, causing an infection.
Sinusitis can be:
- Acute (symptoms last up to 4 weeks)
- Sub-acute (symptoms last between 4-12 weeks)
- Chronic (symptoms last 3 months or longer)
What are the symptoms of sinusitis?
The following are all common symptoms of sinusitis:
- A headache with a feeling of pressure
- Pain and tenderness near your eyes and cheekbones, sometimes with swelling around your eyes
- Pain in your upper teeth and jaw area
- Bad breath (even after you've brushed your teeth)
- A cough
- Sore throat
- Feeling fatigued (tired)
- Congestion in your nose
- Post-nasal drip (thick mucus that runs down from the nose into the throat)
Some of these symptoms occur with other illnesses, so be sure to see your health care provider (HCP) to make sure you get the right diagnosis.
How can my HCP tell if I have sinusitis?
To determine whether or not you have a sinus infection, your HCP will ask you about your symptoms and examine your nose and face. This may include looking inside your nose, and shining a light on and tapping on your sinuses to look for inflammation and signs of infection.
Most of the time a diagnosis is based on your symptoms and your history of prior sinus infections.
Sometimes additional tests may be needed, including:
- A culture (laboratory test) of the fluid coming from your nose or sinuses
- CT scan (a painless procedure that produces images of your body by using x-rays and computer technology)
- Blood tests
What is the treatment for sinusitis?
Some of the treatments for sinusitis include:
- Antibiotics (if you have a bacterial infection)
- Pain reliever such as acetaminophen
- Decongestant (medicine that makes it easier to breathe if you have inflammation in your nose)
If you have allergies, your HCP may also prescribe an antihistamine.
Is there anything else I can do to feel better?
If you have sinusitis, make sure to follow your HCP's instructions and finish all of the medicine that was prescribed for you, even if you start to feel better.
Other things that you can do to help yourself feel better include:
- Drinking plenty of water and getting enough rest
- Putting a moist, warm washcloth on your face a few times a day
- Using a humidifier
- Breathing in steam a few times a day (for example; in the shower with hot water running)
Can I do anything to prevent sinusitis?
Yes, there are things that you can do to help prevent getting sinusitis.
Most importantly, you can:
- Wash your hands with warm water and soap to avoid picking up a virus, especially if you've shaken hands with another person
- Don't smoke, and avoid people who do
Other things you can do to help stay healthy include:
- Eating a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables (to help your body resist infection by boosting your immune system)
- Drinking plenty of fluid and make sure you're not dehydrated
- Lowering your stress level
If you're concerned that you might have a sinus infection, here's a tip on how to bring it up with your health care provider: "I think I might have a sinus infection."
Every year, more than 200,000 people in the United States have to go to the hospital for flu-related problems. Colds are even more common, with Americans having 1 billion colds each year...