Sinusitis is a swelling or inflammation of the tissue-lining in the sinuses. Generally sinuses that are healthy, are filled with air. However, they can become filled or blocked with fluid. Inside these sinuses pathogens can fester and cause infections.

What can cause a sinus blockage?

Sinusitis can be of many types and vary from acute to a chronic condition:

  • Acute sinusitis – can be similar to a cold and cause a stuffy or runny nose and facial pain. The condition can last between 2-4 weeks.
  • Sub-acute sinusitis – this condition lasts longer than the acute for 4-12 weeks.
  • Chronic inflammation – which can cause headaches, tooth pain and bad breath that last 12 weeks or longer.
  • Recurrent sinusitis – can last several times within a year.

The most common conditions can lead to a blockage are:

  • Allergic rhinitis – which can cause the lining of the nose to swell up.
  • Nasal polyps – which are tiny growths of the nose linings.
  • Common cold
  • Deviated septum – which is a shift within the nasal cavity.
  • Structural changes in the nose that can cause the ducts to be narrow.
  • People with weakened immune systems or take medicines that suppress it.

How is Sinusitis diagnosed?

Generally, the doctor will listen to your symptoms and give you a physical examination. It is possible to identify the tenderness of sinuses by feeling and pressing on your face. Another method to determine the condition would be to tap on your teeth, to see if a sinus near your nose bothers you. Further tests such as a nasal endoscopy can confirm the blockages inside your nose or areas of sinus drainage.

Treatment of Sinusitis

If it is a simple sinus blockage, the doctor usually will prescribe a nasal decongestant and saline nasal washes. Most of the times, that is all that is needed. It is important to remember that over-the-counter nasal decongestants shouldn’t be used for more than 3 days, as that may actually increase the congestion. If the doctor suspects an infection, he or she may add antibiotics; usually taken for a maximum of two weeks. Inhaling warm, moist air through steam inhalation using a vaporiser helps clear the secretions if the sinusitis is chronic in nature.

In the case of severe and recurrent sinusitis that does not respond even to antibiotics and decongestants, the ENT Surgeon may recommend sinus surgery. Sometimes the sinus opening may be blocked by an anatomical deformity such as nasal polyps. In this case, the doctor will operate using an endoscope and remove the polyp through a procedure called micro-debridement. Other surgical procedures include turbinectomy and balloon sinuplasty. Complete recovery usually takes about 4 to 6 weeks, although most people will get back to normal activities within 5 to 7 days.

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