Sinus disease is a major health problem. It afflicts 31 million people in the United States. Americans spend more than $1 billion each year on over-the-counter medications to treat it. Sinus disease is responsible for 16 million doctor visits and $150 million spent on prescription medications. People who have allergies, asthma, structural blockages in the nose or sinuses, or people with weak immune systems are at greater risk.
Sinusitis is inflammation and swelling of the tissues that line the sinuses. This interferes with normal mucus drainage, leading to breathing difficulties, pain and pressure. When the condition persists for 12 weeks or longer, it is considered chronic.
Causes & Symptoms
Sinusitis is the number one reported chronic condition in the United States, affecting an estimated 37 million Americans. It’s most often caused by an infection brought on by a cold or allergies, but may also be the result of nasal polyps, a deviated septum, trauma to the face, hay fever, complications from immune system disorders or tumors.
Individuals suffering from sinusitis experience a variety of cold-like symptoms such as nasal congestion and discharge, postnasal drip, sore throat, facial pressure and swelling, loss of smell and taste, headache, fever, fatigue and bad breath.
Complications can include asthma attacks, meningitis, vision problems, aneurysms and stroke.
Diagnosis & Treatment
In addition to a physical examination and a review of your medical history, your doctor will inspect your nasal passages for polyps and other abnormalities and check for inflammation and a buildup of fluid. Additional tests utilizing nasal endoscopy, CT scans, MRIs and allergy tests can be used to help confirm the diagnosis.
Treatments will vary depending upon the severity of your sinusitis and whether it’s an acute or chronic condition. Saline nasal sprays and corticosteroids are useful for rinsing your nasal passages and relieving inflammation. Decongestants are a good short-term solution, but extended use can actually worsen the condition. Antibiotics are usually prescribed for bacterial infections.
Antihistamines, nasal steroid sprays, saline washes and oral steroids all provide long-term relief. More permanent solutions such as immunotherapy (allergy shots) or surgery can bring relief to those suffering from chronic sinusitis.
Rhinitis is similar to hay fever, but is caused by something other than an allergen. Dubbed non-allergic rhinitis to differentiate the two, it produces cold-like symptoms that can leave you feeling miserable and worn-down. It may take allergy testing to rule out hay fever and accurately diagnose non-allergic rhinitis.
Rhinitis is common, and can be brought on by a variety of factors. Viruses, bacteria, and other irritants can all cause symptoms. Some of the more common triggers include viral infections (colds and flu), changes in the weather, airborne irritants (dust, smog, perfume), foods and beverages (hot foods, spicy foods, alcohol), stress, hormonal changes (pregnancy, menstruation), and certain medications (aspirin, ibuprofen, beta blockers).
Symptoms of non-allergic rhinitis are similar to those you experience with a cold. Runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, and postnasal drip are all common, and may continue indefinitely or come and go. Unlike hay fever, non-allergic rhinitis doesn’t cause itchy eyes, nose or throat. The absence of these symptoms is a good indicator that you are suffering from rhinitis rather than hay fever caused by allergies. Non-allergic rhinitis isn’t just bothersome; if untreated, it can cause nasal polyps, chronic sinusitis and ear infections.
Your doctor will diagnose non-allergic rhinitis based on your symptoms and medical history, and will want to rule out an allergic cause through skin and blood tests. Sinus problems present similar symptoms, so you may also need a nasal endoscopy or CT scan to rule out nasal polyps or a deviated septum.
The treatment you are prescribed will be based on the severity of your symptoms. Mild cases of rhinitis may respond to simple home remedies; irrigation of the nasal passages with a neti pot or bulb syringe, using a humidifier to moisten the air, and drinking lots of liquids can all help. If you know specifically which substance is causing you misery, avoid it if possible. It’s always a good idea to avoid cigarettes and alcohol.
In addition, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter or prescription drugs. These include antihistamines, decongestants, and saline and corticosteroid nasal sprays. Surgery is probably going to be required for nasal polyps, a deviated septum or any other physical abnormalities.
Call Eastern Shore ENT & Allergy at (410) 742-1567 for more information or to schedule an appointment.