Healthy Living

Treatments for Sinusitis

Treatments for Sinusitis

Key Takeaways

  • Most sinusitis cases are a result of an uncontrolled allergy.
  • If your sinusitis is caused by bacterial infection, you will experience pain in the face with a pus-like nasal discharge.
  • An effective sinusitis treatment is usually a combination of different methods, usually self-care coupled with medications.

Sinusitis is a common infection, although most people who suffer from the condition use ineffective treatments. Before going to the pharmacy, you should first learn about the appropriate treatment for your condition.

Sinuses are tiny openings found in the skull and are usually filled with air. They generate mucus, which allows the nasal pathways to stay free from pollutants and allergens.

Sinusitis is the inflammation of the sinus membranes. Occasionally, this swelling causes obstruction of the sinuses, catching air and mucus inside of them. It can result in pressure and pain, and at times, can cause a bacterial infection.

Who are at a higher risk of developing sinusitis?

Sinusitis can happen to anyone. However, there are some risk factors and health disorders that can put you at greater risk of developing sinusitis. Risk factors include having a nasal bone spur, nasal polyps (non-cancerous growths in the nose), or a deviated nasal septum. You might also develop sinusitis if you suffer from an allergy or when you're exposed to molds.

Sinusitis can also be a result of smoking, a weak immune system, or an upper respiratory infection. Cystic fibrosis is a disorder that leads to the accumulation of thick mucus in the lungs. You can also get sinusitis from a dental infection and when traveling by airplane, which exposes you to a high concentration of germs in a recycled cabin air. 

Types of sinusitis

There are two types of sinusitis: acute (short-term infection) and chronic (prolonged infection). Sinusitis can develop due to allergies or colds. Fungal infections can also cause sinusitis in individuals whose immune systems are weak.

Chronic sinusitis can, at times, be a result of complications such as the shape of the nasal pathways or growths like nasal polyps, which prevent the normal drainage of the sinuses.

The symptoms of chronic and acute sinusitis are the same. They include:

  • Congestion
  • Pain or pressure in the face
  • Headaches
  • Thick and discolored mucus 

Sinusitis treatment

Before choosing a treatment for sinusitis, it is important to first identify the origin of the condition. For example, if allergies are the cause of your sinusitis, then using decongestants will not be effective.

Visit your physician if your symptoms last for more than two days. The exact cause can be identified through physical examination or imaging tests such as CT scans, X-rays, or MRIs.

An effective sinusitis treatment is usually a combination of different methods, usually self-care coupled with medications.

1) Antibiotics

Treatment with antibiotics is not needed if your sinusitis is the result of a viral infection. The most recommended treatments are fever and pain medication (like acetaminophen), mucolytics (drugs that dissolve mucus), and decongestants.

If your sinusitis is caused by bacterial infection, you will experience pain in the face with a pus-like nasal discharge. Moreover, your symptoms will last for more than one week. Usually, over-the-counter (OTC) nasal drugs are not effective. Acute sinusitis is normally treated by antibiotics, which kill the bacteria that causes the infection.

The five leading types of bacteria that can cause sinusitis are:

  • Haemophilus influenzae
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae
  • Streptococcus pyogenes
  • Moraxella catarrhalis

The antibiotic prescribed must be able to eliminate these types of bacteria. Many doctors opt for amoxicillin/clavulanate as the initial treatment for suspected bacterial sinusitis. However, Amoxil is the recommended initial antibiotic for the treatment of acute sinusitis with no complications.

For people who are allergic to penicillin, the following drugs may be given as first options:

  • Clarithromycin
  • Cefaclor
  • Sulfamethoxazole
  • Loracarbef
  • Azithromycin
  • Ciprofloxacin 
  • Trimethoprim

If an individual with assumed bacterial sinusitis does not get better after taking amoxicillin for five days, one of the above-listed medications may be given. Usually, an effective antibiotic is supposed to be taken only for a maximum of 10-14 days. Certain antibiotics are assumed to minimize inflammation aside from killing bacteria.

2) Painkillers

Most sinusitis patients use OTC pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve discomfort. The instructions indicated on the label should be followed. Stop using painkillers after ten days.

3) Decongestants

Taking oral mucolytics and decongestants may help drain the sinuses.

Long-course antibiotics such as Augmentin are needed in the treatment of chronic sinusitis, and a procedure for sinus drainage may also be necessary. Sometimes, surgery done under general anesthesia is conducted to unblock clogged sinuses. 

Avoid the use of antihistamines unless the cause of your sinusitis is an allergy, which includes sensitivity to dander, pollen, and other environmental causes. Nasal steroid sprays are effective when it comes to reducing sinus inflammation in people who have allergies. However, the two treatments are sometimes combined. Doctors may recommend oral steroids to minimize acute swelling and ease chronic inflammation in individuals who have nasal polyps or fungal sinusitis from an allergy.

In many individuals who develop allergic sinusitis, a bacterial infection of the sinuses also often follows. In such cases, the development of secondary bacterial sinusitis may be prevented through early allergic sinusitis treatment.

Fungal infection of the sinuses, specifically mucormycosis (previously known as zygomycosis), can occur in rare cases. It usually happens to debilitated individuals or individuals badly injured during environmental calamities and other catastrophes. The infection usually develops when fungus comes in contact with injured or compromised tissues. The death rate of people suffering from a severe, life-threatening sinus infection is between 50-85 percent. Early diagnosis is crucial in treatment, which is accompanied by instant surgical debridement, antifungal medicines, and controlling any debilitating disease that involves compromised blood flow to the tissues such as diabetes.

4) Anti-allergy drugs

Most sinusitis cases are a result of an uncontrolled allergy.

It is important to undergo allergy tests to know if you have any. If you are found to have them, drugs, usually antihistamines, can help you manage allergic reactions. Getting allergy vaccines is another option and is a lasting treatment. Having the vaccine makes you less sensitive to allergens that trigger your symptoms.

5) Steroids

Occasionally, your physician may recommend steroid inhalation to minimize the inflammation of your sinuses. Taking steroids orally may be required in severe cases of chronic sinusitis.

6) Surgery

Surgery may be the appropriate option if your acute or chronic sinusitis keeps recurring. The surgeon will remove blockages and expand the sinus pathways, restoring the easy drainage of the sinuses.

Preventing sinusitis

Since sinusitis occurs after an allergic reaction, a bout of flu, and colds, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and minimal allergen exposure can help keep the infection at bay. Some of the ways you can help prevent sinusitis include:

  • Receiving an annual flu vaccine to minimize your risk.
  • Consuming nutritious foods that can boost your immune system such as fresh vegetables and fruits. 
  • Frequently washing your hands.
  • Avoiding smoke, pollens, chemicals, and other allergens.

Antihistamine medications are usually effective in treating colds and allergies.

Outlook

Sinusitis can be cured, and most people who suffer from it do get better without visiting a doctor or using antibiotics. You should, however, consult a doctor if your sinusitis is chronic or recurrent. You could be suffering from a primary medical disorder like nasal polyps.

Sinusitis that persists and goes untreated can result in uncommon complications such as:

  • Meningitis - A fatal infection that results in the swelling of the brain.
  • Abscess - An accumulation of pus in the sinuses.
  • Orbital cellulitisAn infection of the membranes lining the eyes.
  • Osteomyelitis - A serious infection of the bones.