Sinusitis: causes, symptoms, treatments

Sinusitis, also known as a sinus infection or “head cold” can be an irritating, painful, and debilitating disease. Two million Australians have experienced sinusitis at least once in their life. It is much more painful than the common cold and can leave you feeling sapped of energy. So, what are the causes, symptoms, and treatments of sinusitis?

What are sinuses?

Sinuses are four sacs that sit behind the cheeks and above the eye on both sides of the face. The lower sacs contain little hairs called “cilia” that sweep mucus (what we usually call “snot”) into the nose and into the throat. We have sinuses because they act as a resonance chamber for one’s voice (think of the hole inside an acoustic guitar) and a “crumple zone” of the face, protecting the brain and eye socket. It’s also a filter and humidifier for air we breathe in.

Causes of sinusitis

There are many causes of sinusitis ranging from viral, bacterial, fungal, and allergens. Viral or bacterial infections such as the common cold, the flu, bronchitis, or other respiratory infections can cause sinusitis. Seasonal allergies can inflame the sinuses and cause sinusitis. Fungal infections from allergens are also a common cause of sinusitis. According to ear, nose, and throat specialist Dr. Joseph VanderMeer, M.D. of Lakeshore Health Partners says that in the United States, 96 to 98% of sinusitis is caused by viral infections. Even though the reason why sinusitis can differ, the cause is the same; it is an inflammation of the mucous membranes of the nose and sinus cavities which stops proper drainage.

Symptoms of sinusitis

Sinusitis feels quite painful especially in the upper jaw and cheek area. It can also cause pain in your forehead, behind your nose or eyes, and give you a runny nose. You can also experience post nasal drip, which is snot falling down the back of your throat. You’ll also have a nasal voice for a while. You can also have teeth pain, as the blocked sinus creates pressure up on the jaw and gums.

Lots of people can also experience fever, cloudy or blurry vision, fatigue, or a feeling of disconnection from the present moment. Blocked ears are common, which makes people hard to hear. Since your sense of smell is affected, tasting food can be difficult. You can also get dry mouth, as breathing through your nose is almost impossible.

Chronic sinusitis – sinusitis that persists for twelve weeks or more

Sinusitis is grouped into three groups according to how long it lasts. The first group, acute, lasts for fewer than four weeks. Subacute lasts from 4-12 weeks, while chronic sinusitis is a persistent sinusitis that lasts for 12 weeks or more. Chronic sinusitis can often be caused by the body rather than an infection; a deviated septum or nasal polyps can cause chronic sinusitis. Other factors that can upset the sinuses is constant exposure to pollution, mould, or allergens. Removing oneself from this environment can help chronic sinusitis symptoms.

How to treat sinusitis

One of the common and most cost-effective way to treat sinusitis symptoms is to use saline (salt water) irrigation. This uses a specialised bottle that forms a seal around one nostril and pushes saline through the sinuses to flush out blocked up mucous or snot. It usually works in patients with acute sinusitis.

However, constant use of saline irrigation can potentially damage the cilia or small hairs in the sinuses. You can also use steroid nasal irrigation, which can treat the swelling as well as getting rid of the snot. Long-term steroid use can have side-effects, though.

Other treatments are topical steroid or antibiotic therapy, though more studies are needed to find out if they work long term. Topical nasal steroids are beneficial, though some side effects such as irritation and mucous bleeding are common.

Treating sinusitis with antibiotics is also an option, especially if the sinusitis is caused by the flu or a similar bacterial infection. This can clear acute sinusitis but does not usually work for chronic sinusitis.

Over the counter decongestants or mucolytics (cough syrup) can slightly improve symptoms but no evidence shows that it can eliminate the causes. Antihistamines and anti-asthma medication are also used to treat the symptoms, but also there is no evidence that it stops infections or the causes of sinusitis.

In very rare cases, people with chronic sinusitis require surgery if all other methods fail. This is an extreme method and should only be used if nothing else works.

Non-invasive ways to treat sinusitis with compounding

For those people suffering from chronic sinusitis, a compounding solution that combines many different medications that can treat the causes and symptoms. This allows pharmacists to custom make medicines for combatting chronic sinusitis that are tailored to patient needs.

If chronic sinusitis is caused by a viral or bacterial infection, nasal irrigation may only treat the symptoms and not the cause. Through compounding, a pharmacist can formulate a nasal irrigation treatment that may not be available off the shelf and suits an individual patient’s situation.

Compounding can also save on people taking many different types of pills or liquids due to stomach issues, trouble swallowing, and other side-effects from sinusitis. Certain steroids can also have side-effects when taken long-term. Antibiotic resistance is also a concern if taken over a longer than normal period.

Compounding can target problem areas with specialised medicines that other medicines may not. A “broad-spectrum” anti-biotic will kill off all the bacteria in the sinuses both good and bad. This may not be the ideal preparation for dealing with chronic sinusitis.

Learn more about compounding with the eCompounding Chemist

An approach that is individual as you are is available with compounding pharmacy. If you’d like to know more about compounding treatments, please contact Shadi the eCompounding Chemist on 1300 790 139 or click here:[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]