The sinuses are cavities, or air-filled pockets, that are near the nose passage. The sinuses make mucus. This fluid’s job is to clean the bacteria and other particles out of the air you breathe.
If mucus drainage is blocked, however, bacteria may start to grow. This leads to a sinus infection, or sinusitis. The most common viruses and bacteria that cause sinusitis also cause the flu and certain kinds of pneumonia.
Sinusitis is an infection of the lining of the sinuses near the nose. These infections most often happen after a cold or an allergy flare-up.
There are four types of sinusitis:
- Acute: Symptoms last less than four weeks and get better with the right care
- Sub-acute: This type of infection does not get better with treatment at first; symptoms last four to eight weeks
- Chronic: Chronic infection happens with repeated or poorly treated acute infections; these symptoms last eight weeks or longer
- Recurrent: If you have three or more episodes of acute sinusitis in a year, it’s called recurrent
Left untreated, sinusitis can lead to more serious conditions, so it’s important to seek medical attention if you think you have or your child has a sinus infection. You’ll be glad to know that the ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialists in the Division of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at Cooper University Health Care are experts at treating sinusitis.
Why Choose Cooper to Treat Sinusitis
The ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialists in Cooper’s Division of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery are uniquely qualified to diagnose and treat sinus problems. Fellowship-trained and with years of experience, our otolaryngologists have the advanced expertise to provide both medical and surgical care for all types of sinus infections.
Risk Factors for Sinusitis
A sinus infection often happens after a cold. The cold inflames the nasal passages, which can block the opening of the sinuses and lead to infection. Allergies can also cause the nasal tissue to swell and make more mucus and cause sinusitis.
Other conditions that can lead to sinusitis include:
- Abnormalities in the structure of the nose
- Enlarged adenoids
- Diving and swimming
- Tooth infections
- Nose injury
- Foreign objects that are stuck in the nose
- Secondhand smoke
Symptoms of Sinusitis
The symptoms of sinusitis may depend on your age. These are the most common symptoms of sinusitis:
Runny nose that lasts longer than 7 to 10 days; the discharge is often thick green or yellow, but can also be clear.
- Cough at night
- Occasional daytime cough
- Swelling around the eyes
Older children and adults:
- Runny nose or cold symptoms that last longer than 7 to 10 days
- Complaints of drip in the throat from the nose
- Facial pain
- Bad breath
- Sore throat
- Swelling around the eyes, worse in the morning
It's important to see a healthcare provider if you have sinusitis, particularly if you experience:
- Vision changes
- Severe or intense facial pain or pressure
- High fever
- Neck stiffness
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling or redness around one or both eyes
- Trouble thinking
These symptoms may point to a serious condition.
How Sinusitis Is Diagnosed
Your healthcare provider can often diagnosis sinusitis based on your symptoms and a physical exam. Sometimes other tests are done which may include:
- Cultures of mucous from the nose to identify the specific type of infection
- X-rays of the sinuses
- Sinus computed tomography (CT or CAT scan); this imaging method uses X-rays and computer technology to make more detailed images
- Blood test
How Sinusitis Is Treated
Based on your age, overall health and the severity of your symptoms, treatment of sinusitis may include:
- Pain relievers
- Nose drops
- Antibiotics for severe symptoms, such as fever, face pain or tenderness, or swelling around the eyes
- Surgery, if other treatments have failed
- Notably, decongestants and antihistamines do not seem to help the symptoms of sinusitis.
You may be referred to an allergist or immunologist, especially for chronic or recurrent sinusitis. People who have had sinus surgery but still have sinusitis may also be referred.
To learn more about the services available in the Division of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery or to schedule an appointment, please call 856.342.3113.