Healthy Living

What Is Acute Sinusitis?

What is Acute Sinusitis?

The inflammation of the sinuses and nasal membranes is what is referred to as sinusitis. The sinuses are the openings located in the facial bones that are linked to nasal openings. Mucous membranes that surround the sinuses are the same as those found in the interior of the nose. You probably have acute sinusitis if you have a stuffed-up nose and there is pressure on your cheeks. Also known as acute rhinosinusitis, acute sinusitis is the short-term inflammation of the sinuses’ membranes. It stops mucus from coming out of your nose. Acute sinusitis affects 37 million or more Americans annually, making it a common infection.

Sinusitis is of two types: Acute and chronic. Acute sinusitis goes on for 4 weeks or less; sub-acute sinusitis goes on for 4-12 weeks. On the other hand, chronic sinusitis goes on for 12 weeks or more. The most common type is acute sinusitis.

Causes

A viral infection linked to the common cold is the leading cause of acute sinusitis. Meanwhile, approximately only 0.5-2% of sinusitis cases are bacterial, and they usually occur as a complication of viral sinusitis.

Most acute sinusitis patients do not require antibiotics since antibiotics are only successful in bacterial infections and not viral infections. By taking antibiotics unnecessarily, sinusitis sufferers expose themselves to the risk of experiencing antibiotic side effects and building resistance to antibiotics. 

Signs and Symptoms of Acute Sinusitis

The signs and symptoms of acute sinusitis include:

  • Nasal congestion
  • A thick discharge from the nose that is yellow to green
  • Facial pain or pressure

Other symptoms include headaches, tiredness, fever, losing the ability to smell, cough, bad breath, and pressure in the ears. Usually, you will develop these symptoms within one day from infection, and they get better after 7-10 days.

Differentiating Between Viral and Bacterial Sinusitis

At first, it may be difficult to tell whether your sinusitis is viral or bacterial. According to studies, one cannot tell whether sinusitis is viral or bacterial only by looking at the duration of the symptoms, even when they go on for more than ten days.

You probably have bacterial sinusitis if:

  • Your symptoms go on for ten days or longer.
  • Your symptoms first get better and then deteriorate again between the initial seven days.
  • You display serious symptoms, such as having a fever or a thick discharge from the nose that is green to yellow for 3 or 4 consecutive days.

Diagnosing Acute Sinusitis

To diagnose acute sinusitis, a physical evaluation is needed. Your physician will tap your sinuses lightly using their fingers to look for an infection. Light may also be used to examine the inside of your nose. This is to check for polyps, inflammation, tumors, and other irregularities.

To confirm the diagnosis, the following tests may be conducted:

  • Nasal endoscopy: Using a nasal endoscope, the doctor looks into your nose. The scope, which is a narrow, flexible fiber optic instrument, helps the doctor look for inflammation and other irregularities in the sinuses.
  • Imaging tests: The doctor may recommend an MRI or a CT scan to detect inflammation or other irregularities in the sinuses.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Immediately visit your physician if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • A stiff neck
  • Constant high fever
  • Difficulty in thinking clearly
  • Abrupt severe pain in the head or face
  • Complications in vision
  • Redness or swelling near one or both eyes.

Also, visit your doctor if your symptoms have lasted for ten days or longer, are serious, or at first get better and then deteriorate again.

Treatment for Acute Sinusitis

Symptom relief is the treatment used for sinusitis, and antibiotic therapy may or may not be used. Consult with your doctor on whether you require antibiotic therapy or not. Although antibiotics may be needed in severe bacterial sinusitis, viral and bacterial sinusitis can get better with the use of non-antibiotic treatment.

  • Symptomatic treatments: Their aim is to relieve symptoms. They do not, however, make the duration of the sickness shorter.
  • Pain relief: These are non-prescription medicines that are recommended for pain such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • Nasal irrigation: This involves using a saline solution to flush the sinuses and nose several times a day. It is known to minimize the pain that comes with congestion and lessen the duration of symptoms.
  • Nasal steroids: These help to minimize swelling in the nose, mostly in 2-3 days. The side effects of these medicines are few and they relieve symptoms in many individuals.

Some nasal steroids are available through a prescription and one, Nasacort or triamcinolone, can be had without a prescription. All these medicines are effective, although their frequency of use and cost differ.

Other Treatments for Acute Sinusitis

  • Oral decongestants: You will find these helpful if you have pain or a feeling of fullness in the ears.
  • Nasal decongestant sprays: These include phenylephrine and oxymetazoline and are used for the short-term treatment of congestion. You should, however, not use them for more than 3 days to avoid rebound congestion (frequent congestion of the nose unless there is recurring use of the medicine), potential addiction, and lasting complications of frequent use such as constant nasal crusting and dryness, which can be hard to cure once it occurs.
  • Oral antihistamines: These have not been proven to improve sinusitis symptoms and can result in unnecessary side effects.
  • Mucolytics: These are medicines that make secretions thin and therefore assist in eliminating mucus. An example of a mucolytic is guaifenesin. 
  • Observation: Most acute sinusitis patients opt for this. Consult with your doctor if this option is suitable for you. Since approximately 75% of bacterial sinusitis patients get better in one month without the use of antibiotics, watchful waiting is a good option. You can use treatments to alleviate your symptoms while in the period of watchful waiting. Treatment using antibiotics is normally started if the symptoms worsen during the observation period. 
  • Antibiotics: Since the majority of individuals with bacterial sinusitis get better without antibiotics, antibiotics are not usually required. Consult with your physician on whether you require antibiotics or not. If the doctor puts you on antibiotics, you can still use treatments for easing your symptoms. Amoxicillin is one of the inexpensive and most successful antibiotics for the treatment of sinusitis. If you are allergic to penicillin or reside in a place where there is high resistance to this specific antibiotic, your doctor may prescribe an alternative antibiotic. It is crucial to stick carefully to the dosing instructions and to complete the whole course of treatment, regardless of the type of antibiotic prescribed. Not following the dosing instructions strictly will result in complications like recurrent infection.

What to Do When Acute Sinusitis Persists

You should get a re-examination if you do not get well after the use of antibiotics. A different antibiotic or additional evaluation using imaging tests of the sinuses' interiors may be required.

Sinusitis symptoms can sometimes get better then reappear. The reason for this is that the antibiotic used did not successfully eliminate the infection. Depending on the situation, another antibiotic, prolonged antibiotic treatment, or additional testing may be ordered.

How to Prevent Acute Sinusitis

You can do the following to prevent acute sinusitis:

  • Keep your immune system strong by sticking to a healthy diet.
  • Stay away from cigarette smoke and other air pollutants.
  • Reduce your interaction with individuals who have colds.
  • Regularly wash your hands.
  • Keep your sinuses healthy and moist by using a humidifier in dry weather.
  • Receive an annual flu vaccine.
  • Immediately treat allergies.
  • When experiencing nasal congestion, take decongestants.

Key Takeaways

  • Acute sinusitis goes on for four weeks or less; sub-acute sinusitis goes on for 4-12 weeks. 
  • Most acute sinusitis patients do not require antibiotics, since antibiotics are only successful in bacterial infections and not viral infections.
  • At first, it may be hard to determine if your sinusitis is bacterial or viral. To diagnose acute sinusitis, a physical evaluation will be required.