Once the sneezing, runny nose and other symptoms of a cold subside, many people continue to cough up or blow out yellow and green phlegm; this is often accompanied by a sinus headache or other pressure in one’s head. These symptoms usually indicate sinusitis, a common secondary infection that occurs when the tissue lining the sinus cavities becomes inflamed. Sinusitis affects nearly 35 million Americans each year and can be triggered by the flu or a cold, deviated septum, small polyp growths in the nasal lining, hay fever, even an infected tooth. Here is what you need to know about sinusitis – what it is, its symptoms and how to treat it.
Sinus cavities are located on both sides of the nose, behind and between the eyes, in the forehead and by the back of the skull. These air-filled chambers can lighten the skull, improve one’s voice and produce mucus that moisturizes and protects the nasal passages from clogging up with irritants like mold, dust, pet dander and pollen. When the sinus cavities can’t properly drain, the body’s resulting inflammatory response is sinusitis.
Sinusitis is marked by the presence of greenish-yellow phlegm; a blocked nose, pain and tenderness around the cheeks, eyes, and forehead; a sinus headache or a toothache; and a reduced sense of smell.
There exist varying types of sinusitis. Acute sinusitis may be accompanied by a runny nose and/or facial pain and lasts approximately 2-4 weeks. Subacute sinus inflammation takes longer to heal and can last from 1-3 months before clearing up. Chronic sinusitis lasts three or more months, while and recurrent sinusitis occurs several times a year.
Often before seeking medical attention, those suffering from sinusitis will use a neti pot, vaporizer or steam shower to loosen the mucus and moisturize the nasal passages. Many will find relief with over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen, nasal decongestants, warm water packs held against the face and saline solution nasal sprays. If none of these at-home remedies are effective, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics or a corticosteroid spray.
When to see an ENT Specialist
If your sinusitis lasts longer than a month, is extremely painful, or seems to reoccur far too often, you may be referred to an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist. For those whose sinusitis has become chronic or recurring, an ENT specialist will work with you and your primary care doctor to establish a treatment plan for living with and treating the illness. If the sinusitis is found to be the result of a deviated septum, polyps, or structural type problems of the sinuses, then surgery may be able to correct the issue.
Endoscopic surgery is a minimally invasive procedure that uses a small scope inserted into the sinus passages to broaden the pathways to allow for proper, normal drainage. Your ENT may also recommend a balloon sinuplasty, during which he will place a tiny balloon into your nose to reach the blocked sinus; once the sinus is reached he will inflate the balloon to restructure the opening of the sinus. Surveys of patients post-procedure indicate an 80%-98% satisfaction rate, as well as a considerably lower rate of re-occurrence.
There’s no need to suffer from sinusitis. The Nasal & Sinus Center of Austin are specialists in the field and were among the first to use procedures like balloon sinuplasty. Let our friendly and helpful staff at the Nasal & Sinus Center of Austin help you. For questions about our allergy or sinus services, or to make an appointment, call our office at (512) 339-4040 or use our secure online request form.