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  • Writer's pictureDr. Koralla Raja Meghanadh

Sinusitis: Understanding Sinus Infections

Updated: Jan 3



Sinusitis or sinus infection is an infection in the sinus walls.


Sinuses are room-like structures in our heads supplied with air from our noses. These sinuses prevent foreign particles like dust and bacteria from settling. To maintain cleanliness, the sinus walls secrete fluids that follow a drainage path into the stomach via the throat and nose.


Sinusitis, or infection in sinus walls, can occur in two ways:


  1. Nasal Infection: A cold or nasal infection can extend the mucosa lining from the nose into the sinuses.

  2. Fluid Build-up: The stagnation of fluids in the sinuses creates an ideal environment for bacteria and fungi to grow, leading to infection in the sinus walls.


In this exploration of sinusitis, we navigate through its stages, causes, and treatments. Join us as we unravel the complexities, demystify the condition, and empower you with insights for effective management. Welcome to a concise journey through the world of sinusitis.


sinusitis - sinus infection

Stages of Sinusitis

Understanding the stages of sinusitis can play a significant role in understanding your situation. Both the methods to diagnose and treat sinus infections vary with stages.


Here are the 4 stages of sinusitis.


  • Trigger: Common viral infections

  • Symptoms: Nose block, headache, fever, loss of smell

  • Duration: 0-5 days for flu-like symptoms, 6-15 days for acute sinusitis

  • Follow-up: Develops after partially treated or untreated acute sinusitis

  • Duration: About one month (15th to 45th day)

  • Characteristics: Decreased symptoms, potential progression to chronic

  • Onset: Develops after 30 days of subacute sinusitis

  • Symptoms: Decrease to one or two with lower severity

  • Perception: Misleading sense of control, internal infection persists

  • Triggers: Cold weather or viral infections in chronic patients

  • Effect: Total blockage, increased symptoms similar to acute sinusitis

  • Episodes: Environmental changes or viral infections can trigger episodes


Causes

Sinusitis occurs only in people with any or multiple of the 3 underlying conditions.

  1. Allergy

  2. Anomalies in the sinus drainage pathway

  3. Lesser immunity against bacteria by birth


To understand more about the causes of sinusitis, you can read our article.


Symptoms

Sinusitis is triggered by nasal infections like cold in people with the above conditions. It can sometimes be seen as an extension of the nasal infection, like the common cold, where the existing symptoms can be aggravated or a new list of symptoms could be added.


Here is a general list of sinusitis symptoms.

  1. Running nose

  2. Nose block or stuffy nose

  3. Headaches

  4. Facial pain

  5. A feeling that phlegm is oozing out from the back of the nose to the throat and a necessity to clear the throat frequently

  6. Frequent sore throat and pain in the throat

  7. Frequent attacks of cough


To know more about sinusitis symptoms. Check the link below.


Treatment

The treatment for sinusitis can involve


The treatment and effectiveness of the above 5 solutions depends on many factors, like

  1. Stage of sinusitis

  2. Underlying causes and their role in sinus infection

  3. Type of sinus infection

  4. The severity of the symptoms

  5. Complications from the sinus infection


To understand what treatment we need, we must first understand our condition. This can only be done after a proper diagnosis is performed by an expert ENT.


So, it is important to contact an expert ENT near you for treatment and diagnosis.


To learn more about sinusitis treatment, refer to the below article.


Home Remedies

Although many home remedies mentioned for various diseases are not science-backed up, sinusitis has home remedies that are.


  1. Small but multiple workouts daily

  2. Steam inhalation

  3. Using spices wisely can help boost immunity

  4. Stay hydrated

  5. Adequate sleep



These remedies work well in the early stages of sinusitis. As the condition advances, their effectiveness decreases. In the initial phases, especially the acute stage, these remedies might be enough to cure sinusitis permanently. However, as the disease progresses to subacute and chronic, relying solely on remedies may not completely eliminate the infection. Nonetheless, they remain effective in reducing the disease and symptoms, preventing complications, and slowing down the worsening of the condition.


For more details, check out our article titled "Sinusitis Relief with Home Remedies."


Diagnosis

Sinusitis diagnosis is crucial to treat the disease as there could be multiple factors.


There are particularly 2 tests done to diagnose sinus infection.

  1. Nasal Endoscopy

  2. CT scan of the sinuses


In the early stages, a CT scan is not done, but in later stages, it is done to understand more about the diseases.


To know more about the process of sinus infection diagnosis and the findings that could change the course of action, read the article below.


Complications

A disrupted balance between bacterial virulence and immunity accelerates the spread of disease. Proper care and timely medication prevent rare complications.


Acute Sinusitis & Acute on Chronic Sinusitis Complications

  • Immunity Drop: During acute or acute on chronic sinusitis.

  • Barriers Break: Bacteria breach sinuses, affecting eyes, teeth, and brain.

  • Triggers: Seasonal changes, COVID-19, and stress can reduce immunity.


Eye Complications

  1. Orbital Cellulitis: Pain, swelling, loss of function.

  2. Orbital Abscess: Pus collection, restricts eye movement, may lead to vision loss.


Brain Complications

  • Infection spread to the brain.

  • Symptoms: vomiting, increased blood pressure, lowered heart rate, high fever, seizures, coma, death.

  • Types: Meningitis (skull pressure) and Encephalitis (seizures, coma, death).


Chronic Sinusitis Complications

Thick bacterial phlegm in sinuses causes throat and ear complications.

  1. Laryngitis: Hoarseness, change in voice, throat pain, dry cough, fever.

  2. Bronchitis & Pneumonia: Severe dry cough, breathlessness, chest pain, asthmatic attacks.

  3. Otitis Media: Ear block, pain, deafness, discharge, progression to inner ear issues (vertigo, giddiness, tinnitus).


Fungal Sinus Infections

As mentioned earlier, the fungus can also grow in stagnated fluids. The findings of fungus in a sinusitis case can have a massive impact on the next course of action taken by an ENT.


Fungal sinusitis can be broadly divided into three types.

  1. Non-invasive fungal sinusitis or localized fungal sinusitis

  2. Fulminant fungal sinusitis - mucormycosis (black fungus), white fungus 


Non-invasive would need compulsory sinus surgery, and fulminant would need multiple surgeries. Invasive, although it can be dealt with with antifungal medication alone, there is a high chance of non-invasive fungal sinusitis coexisting with invasive.


To clarify these types of fungal sinusitis, you can check out the article.


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