Sinus Disease

What is Sinus Disease?

Sinus disease, or Sinusitis, involves inflammation, or swelling, of the mucous membranes that line the sinuses.  This inflammation can make mucus drainage difficult, which can result in bacterial growth within the sinus cavities.  

The most common risk factors for the development of bacterial sinusitis include:

  • Viral infections
  • Nasal polyps
  • Other obstructions, such as deviated septum or foreign body

All of the above mentioned risk factors result in obstruction of the openings that empty the sinuses into the nasal cavities.  This reduces the flow of oxygen and promotes the growth of bacteria within the sinuses.  Nasal allergies and viral infections can also alter the thickness of nasal secretions, making them harder to drain, and providing a place for bacteria to grow. 

Bacterial Sinusitis is divided into two categories based on the length of time a patient has been experiencing symptoms:

  • Acute Sinusitis: symptoms such as nasal congestion and discharge, post nasal drainage, headache, cough and facial pain.  Symptoms must have been present for less than 4 weeks. Acute sinusitis generally can be differentiated from a viral infection, or cold, when lasting longer that seven to ten days.  
  • Chronic Sinusitis: symptoms are somewhat similar to acute sinusitis patients, but thick post-nasal drainage and significant facial pressure are common.  Usually symptoms will have been  present for at least eight weeks.  At times, the patient may even feel that his or her symptoms will start to resolve, only to have them return in a few days.  

A diagnosis of acute sinusitis is made based on history of symptoms and physical exam.  History and physical exam are also vital in diagnosing chronic sinusitis, but at times obtaining a sinus CT can also be beneficial.  

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