Your face feels like someone’s stuffed cotton in it, and you’re blowing your nose constantly. Each time you do, something that looks like Nickelodeon slime shoots out and you are absolutely horrified. How could your body make such a color? You feel like you’re dying. Thankfully, you probably aren’t. What you most likely have is Sinusitis, also known as a Sinus Infection. This is one of the most common infections the body can have and usually isn’t particularly risky.
What Is a Sinus Infection?
Before we look at what a sinus infection is, let’s look at what a sinus is. Your face is made up of cavities. Sounds spooky, right? Well without those cavities you wouldn’t be able to read the words on this page, breathe the air around you or eat your dinner. It really isn’t so bad.
Your sinus cavity is located in your forehead, your nose and throughout your cheeks. Usually, it’s pretty clear. That isn’t the case with a sinus infection. When a sinus infection happens, these hollows clog up with thick green or yellow mucous. That mucous stuff up your nose holds hostage your breathing and makes you feel all around cruddy.
So how do you tell the difference between a sinus infection and your average, everyday cold?
Sinus Infection Diagnosis
A trip to your doctor can get you a diagnosis. Depending on the severity of your sinus infection you may need an MRI or a CAT scan. Some doctors do these for patients who are in extreme pain or have chronic sinus infections- in which case, the sinus infection may be a symptom of a greater issue. Cancer, broken bones and several other serious ailments have been found due to chronic sinusitis.
If this is an acute case, your doctor likely won’t pull out the big guns just yet. If you are in extreme pain, as stated, they may, but for a typical case of sinus infection, you probably aren’t going to see the inside of an MRI. Instead, they’ll speak to you about your symptoms. Don’t leave anything out! A doctor cannot diagnose you without knowing what’s really going on. You may find your lime green snot disgusting, but the doctor needs to know about it.
Some doctors may do a nasal swab or have you blow into a tissue to see if the infection is viral or bacterial. This also helps them determine just what they can do for you.
What Your Doctor Can Do For You
So what can your doctor do for a sinus infection? If it’s viral, you’re probably going to have to tough this one out on your own. Though a doctor can give you decongestants and other helpful items, your body will have to beat the virus that’s causing your sinuses to fill with goop.
If it’s allergy based or bacterial, your doctor has a few more options. Antibacterial drugs (such as Zithromax or Augmentin) will help your body fight off the intruders, and there are thousands of allergy prescriptions on the market.
Doctors may also suggest a wide range of over the counter, homeopathy or folk medicine sorts of cures. Vicks vapor rub under the nose sometimes helps open breathing pathways. Standing over a pot of boiling water with a towel over your head makes a “free” humidifier that may help “liquify” the mucous in your sinus cavities and force it to drain a bit more quickly. Increasing vitamin C intake has been showing to help the body’s natural defenses bolster during times of illness. And of course, there is the ever popular chicken noodle soup cure-all that every mother knows.
Most doctors will tell their patients to rest up, eat right and stock up on decongestants if the sinus infection isn’t a serious case.
If the sinus infection is due to sinuses that cannot drain due to a blockage or other illness such as cancer, the sinus infection will be treated as quickly as possible so that the other issue may be addressed. If your sinuses simply cannot drain, drains may be surgically (by an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist) inserted into your cheek sinuses to help relieve the pressure. This is usually a quick, outpatient procedure that may look a bit icky, but will make you feel a good deal better very quickly.
Common Duration of Sinuses Conditions
The duration of a sinus infection deeply depends on the type. Viral sinus infections are nearly impossible to predict since each virus tends to run it’s gamut a bit differently from the last.
Most of the time a sinus infection caused by bacterial problems will clear up within a week or two. Severe ones may last a little longer, but those lasting more than 14 days should cause concern. If your sinusitis lasts more than 14 days, go to your doctor as soon as you can. Even the smallest blockages can be incredibly problematic if left to their own devices.
While it must be noted that some bacterial and allergy based sinus infections can go on for as long as a month, most do dissipate after two weeks. This is why we recommend a second check up. Sinus infections may also mask colds and flu which occur at the same time.
For those with small sinus ducts, chronic blockages, or diagnosed chronic sinusitis, it is impossible to predict how long an individual sinus infection will last. In fact, one sinus infection may just cascade into another, one after another until they can’t be told apart. If this is the case, some doctors may suggest surgery to help allay the problems causing chronic sinusitis if the patient is a candidate for it. Explore these options with your doctor if you are a chronic sinusitis sufferer.
Chronic cases of sinusitis can only be controlled, not cured, without further intervention than oral medication. This may include any number of surgeries, breathing therapies such as nebulizers, and drain insertions. Unfortunately, those with chronic sinusitis are also at higher risk for post nasal drip, asthma and chronic laryngitis.
One serious complication of an untreated frontal sinusitis is Pott’s Puffy Tumor. This is a condition in which the frontal bone of the skull becomes inflamed and infected. Pott’s Puffy Tumor is seen more in children and adolescents. Once the bone is infected, then a whole host of other infections (including a brain abscess, epidural abscess, meningitis) become possible.
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