Sinusitis is a condition that for many is very painful and terribly inconvenient, but fortunately in most cases it will go away without any medical intervention. For those people who suffer from sinusitis that does not go away on its own there are treatments that are available and this article looks at the latest research to help you decide what treatments actually work.
What is Sinusitis?
There are small air filled spaces in your face and skull that we call sinuses. They connect directly with your nose passage and are situated between your eyes and in your forehead. The sinuses are responsible for making mucus and because the sinuses connect directly to your nose passage the mucus usually passes into your nose and then mouth. The sinuses are covered with a type of tissue that can become swollen and inflamed and this is what happens in sinusitis. When this tissue becomes inflamed and swollen the openings that usually drain into your nasal passage can become blocked which stops the mucus from draining out of the sinuses. The sinuses that are located in your cheeks are affected the most, these are also known as your maxillary sinuses. Sinusitis can both happen quite suddenly and get better on its own, or can last a long time and you may require medical help to clear them. If a short attack lasts for four weeks or less then it is called acute sinusitis, whereas sinusitis that lasts for a longer period of time is known as chronic sinusitis. Acute sinusitis is the most common of the two types and this article aims to focus on treatments to deal with this. Sinusitis often occurs as a result of, or when you obtain a cold, flu, or viral illness. If your sinusitis lasts for longer than a week you may have a bacterial infection.
As mentioned earlier, sinusitis can be very painful. Symptoms can be very similar to the onset of any flu like illness and include things such as:
-Generally feeling unwell.
-A sore throat.
-Pain in your upper jaw, teeth, cheeks, around your eyes, or forehead.
-A raised temperature.
-You may lose your sense of smell.
-A headache, this may become worse when you sit forward.
-Pain upon eating, or toothache.
-Lots of green or yellow mucus in your nose.
If you have symptoms such as those above you should visit your doctor and when you do this they should be able to tell you if you have sinusitis or not. Depending on how bad your symptoms are your doctor may refer you to a specialist or send you off for an appropriate scan such as a CAT scan or X-ray.
Do treatments actually work?
The first and most important thing to note is that most sinusitis gets better on its own and no intervention is usually necessary. Because this is a painful condition you will usually find that simple pain relief such as paracetamol should be sufficient until the pain goes away.
In some cases pain persists and does not get better, when this is the case and you have had the symptoms for over a week then you should go and visit your family doctor.
One of the things that your doctor might prescribe for you is antibiotics. If you are given these you must take all of the tablets that have been prescribed for you even if your symptoms resolve beforehand. This is because although sometimes your symptoms are gone the bugs may still be present and can come back in force. All of the different types of antibiotics that are used to treat sinusitis are all shown to be effective and so it does not matter so much if your doctor prescribes one over another. Side effects do occur as a result of taking antibiotics and some of the things that you may get are an upset stomach and diarrhoea. How long you should take them for varies but most of the research now shows that short courses i.e. three to five days is just as effective as taking them for ten days. The most important thing to remember is just to take them for as long as your doctor prescribes them for. Antibiotics only work for bacterial infection and so if your sinusitis is caused by a viral illness then they will not help, however most viral illnesses will resolve on their own with rest and good self cares. For this reason antibiotics are generally only prescribed if your symptoms are severe and last for a week or longer, thus it is advisable to wait for a week before seeing your family doctor if you are coping alright with the symptoms.
If you do not want to go to the doctor and instead want to buy something over the counter you should be wary that the research for medications that you can buy yourself is not very good. In saying this some people find them very effective and this may relieve their symptoms until the sinusitis clears. Decongestants are medicines that as the name implies aim to clear the nasal passage and relieve a blocked nose. Medications of this variety are not always suitable for people with medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, or a problem with your thyroid. If you are concerned that this may be you then you should consult your doctor before using these medications. Decongestants should not be used for more than one week as rebound congestion can occur; this is where the blocked nose reoccurs.
You may also have heard of medications called antihistamines, which are traditionally used to combat fever and allergies. These are a mix of medicines that you can buy yourself and that are prescribed by the doctor. You must be wary when taking these medications though as they can make you sleepy and drowsy. Nasal steroid sprays are another option in the treatment of sinusitis and some of these are available over the counter and other will require a script from the doctor. These sprays are designed to be breathed in through your nose once or twice a day.
Like with most conditions in medicine nearly everything has been tried to combat the dreaded sinusitis condition. In fact it is well known that many people attempt to relieve their symptoms by inhaling steam, which unfortunately can cause burns in some people as the tissue within the nose is fragile. A salt water spray may also be used to rinse out the passage of your nose but evidence supporting these treatments is not convincing.
Will I be OK?
Two out of every three people who have sinusitis get better without any treatment from the doctor. However you can repeat attacks and not only that but the more attacks you have the more likely it is that you may get chronic sinusitis. If you get this long lasting chronic sinusitis you may need to see a specialist who will go over treatment options with you including surgery, of which the most common type is FESS (functional endoscopic sinus surgery). It is important that you visit a doctor if your sinusitis has not resolved in one week as it can cause problems that affect the brain and eyes. You must see your doctor straight away if you get signs of a stiff neck or bad headache, or if you find light painful as this may be suggestive of a more sinister disease.