Sinus infections (sinusitis) can cause daily misery and even (in rare) cases, life-threatening conditions. If you develop chronic sinusitis, symptoms of your infection last for 12 weeks or more, which can have a significant impact on your daily quality of life.
In this blog, the board-certified physicians at New York ENT address the common symptoms and treatment options for sinus infections, including surgery.
What are the symptoms of a sinus infection?
When your sinuses are infected, these air-filled cavities become swollen, which causes mucus to become trapped in the sinuses. This can result in acute sinusitis – which lasts for several weeks – or chronic sinusitis – which lasts for 12 weeks or more. This can cause a variety of negative effects that include the following:
- Postnasal drip (the sensation of mucus dripping down the back of your throat)
- Nasal discharge that can be yellowish or greenish
- Nasal congestion and stuffiness
- Headaches, especially around the forehead
- Pain and pressure around the eyes, cheeks, and forehead or at the bridge of the nose
- Facial swelling
- Fever and chills
- Pain in the teeth, particularly in the upper jaw area
- Coughing that can worsen at night
- Bad breath
- Sore throat
- Ear pain
- Reduced sense of smell and taste
- Overall feeling of fatigue or irritability
What are the treatment options for a sinus infection?
Conservative treatment options are usually tried first, and they may include the following:
- Saline nasal irrigation: nasal sprays or solutions that can reduce drainage and rinse away irritants
- Nasal corticosteroids: nasal sprays to help reduce inflammation
- Oral or injected corticosteroids: used to reduce inflammation, but can cause side effects if used long-term
- Antibiotics: can be used if your sinusitis is caused by bacteria
- Antihistamines: can help if your sinusitis is caused by allergies
- Immunotherapy: may be used if your sinusitis is caused by allergies. Small doses of the allergen causing your reaction can help build up your body’s tolerance to it.
- Antifungal medicine: used if fungus causes your sinusitis
When is surgery needed?
In some cases, these conservative treatments may not be effective enough. This may be true if an underlying structural issue is causing your sinusitis.
Common issues include a deviated septum (a crooked or off-center wall that divides your two nostrils) and nasal polyps (non-cancerous growths on the inside of your nose).
Surgery may be an option to help correct the underlying issue and provide long-term relief. In many cases, minimally invasive techniques can be used, so discomfort and downtime are minimized. Possible surgeries include the following:
- Balloon sinuplasty -The surgeon utilizes an endoscope – a flexible, lighted tube with a tiny camera – that’s inserted through your nostrils. A small balloon is inserted into your sinus passages and inflated to open up the area so mucus can freely drain. The benefits are ongoing, because the balloon helps create a wider nasal passage, which can help prevent future infections.
- Polypectomy – This surgical procedure removes nasal polyps that block your sinuses. It’s performed through your nostrils, so no incisions outside your nose are needed.
- Turbinate reduction (turbinectomy) – If enlarged nasal turbinates (structures on the side walls of the inside of your nose) are causing your sinusitis, surgery may help. Radiofrequency energy is used to reduce their size and increase your airflow.
- Septoplasty – Septoplasty corrects a deviated septum by straightening and repositioning the cartilage.
For more information about your surgical treatment options for sinus infection, contact New York ENT today. Our ear, nose, and throat specialists will discuss your medical history with you and conduct the examinations and testing needed to determine if surgery can help you.