Sinusitis: Important signs and what you need to know

Do you have a stuffy nose and an aching head that doesn't get better? If you do, you may have sinusitis....

Do you have a stuffy nose and an aching head that doesn't get better? If you do, you may have sinusitis. If the symptoms last longer than eight weeks, you may have a chronic case of it. Sinusitis can leave you feeling miserable, and you may be unaware that you even have it, dismissing it as allergies or a lingering cold. So, how do you know if you have it, and what can you do to help your symptoms?

What is chronic sinusitis and how did you get it?

Sinusitis is the swelling and inflammation of the nasal cavity and passages, referred to as the sinuses. In chronic cases, the symptoms fail to resolve after treatment and can be a result of an infection, nasal polyps or other obstruction or a deviated septum. Regardless of how you get it, it can become a prolonged and uncomfortable problem.

Symptoms of chronic sinusitis

There are several common symptoms of chronic sinusitis. These include

  • Yellowish/greenish nasal discharge
  • Nasal congestion/stuffiness
  • Facial pain and/or pressure involving the eyes, nose, brow, cheeks and forehead
  • Headaches
  • A diminished sense of smell and taste
  • Fever

Other symptoms, such as bad breath, fatigue, coughing, an earache and nausea may also accompany the above. Possible signs of serious infections requiring immediate medical attention include pain and swelling of the eyes and/or forehead, severe headaches, confusion/disorientation, vision problems, neck stiffness and shortness of breath.

Medical care and home treatment

If you are having chronic symptoms, it is important to see your doctor. You may need medical treatment that will require prescribed medications, injections or even surgery, depending on the underlying causes and severity of your sinusitis. Treatment for chronic sinusitis includes any combination of the following:

  • Saline spray: This is used to irrigate the nasal cavity by rinsing out irritants and nasal secretions.
  • Corticosteroids: These basically reduce, prevent and treat inflammation. They are administered orally, nasally or intravenously.
  • Decongestants: These relieve congestion by reducing swelling and constricting the blood vessels of the mucous membranes.
  • Pain relievers: These help remedy the symptoms of facial pain, headaches and fever.
  • Allergy shots: These are helpful for managing symptoms when allergies are triggering them.
  • Antibiotics: A course of antibiotics is given if there is a bacterial infection causing the sinusitis.
  • Surgery: If you have a nasal obstruction or deviated septum, a physician may opt to do surgery to remove or fix the problem.

Home care for relief

Here are some basics that you can do at home to help manage your symptoms:

  1. Get plenty of rest, keep your head elevated and stay properly hydrated.
  2. Use a humidifier, take a hot shower or do a vapor treatment to promote nasal drainage.
  3. Try warm compresses on facial areas to assist with pain and to promote circulation.

If your symptoms don't go away, make an appointment to see your Atlanta-area physician.

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