In the digital age, we are accustomed to getting what we want quickly. But some things, like sinus infections, take their time. Understanding the causes of these infections can help you be more realistic in your treatment plan.
Causes of Your Sinus Infection
Nearly 31 million Americans get a sinus infection each year, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
The inflammation of the lining of your sinuses, the air-filled pockets in your face that sit around your nose, is caused by a viral or bacterial infection. A viral upper respiratory infection, also known as the common cold, or allergies can block your sinuses. This blockage promotes the development of a secondary infection.
You may have heard the urban legend that you can tell the cause of your sinus infection (bacterial or viral) by the color of your mucus. According to Dr. Donald Ford, a family medicine physician at the Cleveland Clinic, this is a myth.
“The green-yellow color of mucus that can develop is a byproduct of our own white blood cells, which we use to fight any kind of infection, viral or bacterial, so we can’t tell the cause from the color of the mucus,” he said. “When mucus is thick and dark it usually suggests some mild dehydration, and you should increase fluid intake and use lots of saline spray to keep the mucus thin.”
Many sinus infection symptoms are similar to that of the common cold. They include:
- Discolored mucus
- Post-nasal drainage
- Nasal congestion
- Facial pain/pressure
- Ear pain
- Tooth pain
- Sore throat
- Bad breath
How long these symptoms last depends on the type of sinus infection you are experiencing. Acute sinusitis generally lasts for four weeks or less, while chronic sinusitis can stretch for more than 12 weeks.
Typically, chronic sinusitis is exacerbated by environmental factors, including smoking and allergies. According to Dr. Ford, “Chronic sinusitis may have a number of causes, but the most common cause is allergies. Smoking causes impaired function of the cilia, part of the nasal membranes that remove mucus, and can contribute to developing chronic sinusitis.”
Sinus Infection Treatments
Your ear, nose and throat doctor recommends treating your sinus infection on your own. Start with nasal irrigation a few times a day and over-the-counter medication such as nasal steroid sprays and oral decongestants, if needed.
If you don’t find any relief after 10 days, contact your doctor. You may be prescribed a course of antibiotics.
For those with chronic sinusitis that does not respond well to medical treatment, surgery may be required.
To learn more about how to treat your sinus infection or to schedule an appointment with an ENT expert, contact Carolina Ear, Nose, Throat, Sinus & Allergy today.