Acute sinusitis is more commonly known as a sinus infection. It occurs when the tissues that line the nasal passages and sinuses become inflamed. The common cold can cause it, environmental sources, or other nasal problems. Sinusitis makes breathing through the nose very difficult and several other unpleasant symptoms. Acute Sinusitis usually clears up on its own with home treatments. If the condition lasts longer than twelve weeks, it is chronic sinusitis.


The sinuses are a group of air-filled spaces within the skull that connect to the nasal passages and throat. There are four different sinuses located throughout the face. The maxillary sinuses are the largest and located in the cheekbone area. The frontal sinuses are in the forehead, the ethmoid sinuses are between the eyes, and the sphenoid sinuses are behind the nose. Healthy sinuses are made of healthy pink tissue and empty except for a thin layer of mucus. The sinuses main function is to help filter the air we breathe.



Symptoms of Sinusitis

The symptoms of sinusitis vary from person to person but typically start with persistent nasal congestion. Other symptoms include facial pressure and pain, a runny nose, and yellow or green drainage from the nose. When suffering from acute sinusitis, you may notice a loss of smell or bad breath. Some people feel dental pain due to the pressure in the face. Fever is sometimes present as well, but not always.



What Causes Sinusitis?

Acute sinusitis is often a result of having a simple cold. The common viral infection that goes away on its own can turn bacterial resulting in a sinus infection. Ongoing sinus allergies can also cause it. Certain risk factors can make a person more susceptible to developing sinusitis. These can include seasonal allergies, nasal obstructions like a deviated septum, and certain medical conditions like cystic fibrosis or HIV.



Sinusitis or Allergies

It can be difficult to tell whether you are suffering from allergies or acute sinusitis. This happens because some of the symptoms of both are quite similar. Nasal congestion, runny nose, and a cough are all associated with both allergies and sinusitis. Some important things to keep in mind are the symptoms that are not typically present with allergies. These symptoms usually include the facial pain and pressure, colored discharge, and fever. Since allergies can often trigger a case of sinusitis, it is important to pay attention to lasting symptoms.



How is it Diagnosed?

If you are unsure whether your symptoms are allergies or a sinus infection, the best thing to do is to see your physician. They will evaluate your sinuses by feeling them for puffiness and by looking in your nose. Diagnostic tests are available for more severe cases or when it is important to rule out other causes. These tests can include CT Scans, nasal cultures, and allergy testing. A nasal endoscopy is a test where a thin tube camera is inserted into the sinuses via the nose.



Over the Counter Options

There are several over the counter options at your local pharmacy to help ease and shorten the symptoms of acute sinusitis. Pain medications can be taken to lessen the facial and dental pain. Decongestant nasal sprays are available, but should only be used for a few days. These decongestants tend to make the congestion worse with prolonged use. Saline nasal sprays are great for moistening the nasal passages and help with congestion.



Medical Treatments

Sinus infections used to be automatically treated with a course of antibiotics. Patients began developing immunity or resistance to these types of treatments due to overuse. As uncomfortable as it is, acute sinusitis will almost always clear up on its own with home treatments. Antibiotics are for more severe cases when the condition doesn't get better but becomes chronic.



Home Remedies

Some things can be done at home to make the symptoms of sinusitis more bearable until it's gone. Using a humidifier will help keep moisture in the air and more importantly, in your nose. Dry nasal cavities can be uncomfortable and make symptoms worse. A long steam shower or covering your head with a towel over a bowl of hot water can reduce congestion. Netti pots are also a great way to flush the sinuses and relieve symptoms. They are at pharmacies and are used with saline to flush the sinuses of any irritants.



Chronic Sinusitis

If you have acute sinusitis and the symptoms are not responding to treatment, you may have developed chronic sinusitis. People who suffer from even acute sinus infections multiple times a year have chronic sinusitis. The condition can come back even after a course of antibiotics, and more drastic measures may be needed. Endoscopic sinus surgery is sometimes needed to clean out the sinus cavities and start fresh.




Acute sinusitis is preventable. If you are someone who suffers from allergies, it is important to get those symptoms under control. Using proper medications daily for allergy symptoms can prevent bacteria from forming. Avoiding other pollutants in the air like cigarette smoke can greatly reduce chances of sinus problems. Always wash your hands and avoid direct contact with people who are sick with the common cold. If you do become sick take precautions as soon as possible.



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