Sinus infections are no laughing matter. Known medically as sinusitis, they bring pain and misery to 37 million Americans annually, making them the most common chronic health complaint in the U.S
The result of swelling and inflammation in the nasal passages caused by viral or bacterial infections, nasal passage abnormalities, immune system disorders, exposure to environmental pollutants and other medical disorders, symptoms of sinusitis are similar to those experienced with colds and allergies, from minor nasal congestion complications to more severe issues such as loss of smell and taste.
Most cases of sinusitis are acute, viral infections: meaning they are of short duration (7-10 days on average). Relief may be found with over-the-counter medications such as decongestants, nasal corticosteroid sprays, pain relievers and various home remedies.
Individuals suffering from chronic sinusitis—an infection that persists longer than 12 weeks—usually require a more aggressive treatment approach. Initially, you’ll be given stronger prescription medications including nasal corticosteroids and antibiotics, and possibly oral steroids.
However, if these remedies do not work, a patient’s best long-term solution is sinus surgery. The type of surgery you have depends on the severity and persistence of your sinus infections. There are three common procedures:
- Functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS). The FESS procedure utilizes a nasal endoscope to open the sinus pathways. In most cases, the surgery is completed entirely through the nostrils, so there are no scars left behind. FESS has been in use since the 1970s and is considered safe.
- Image-guided surgery. This procedure relies on a 3-D mapping system created from CT scans and infrared signals to provide information about the position of surgical instruments, allowing the surgeon to accurately guide instruments through complex sinus passages.
- Balloon sinuplasty. In this surgical procedure, a balloon catheter is inserted through the nostrils into the sinus passages, where it is gently inflated, expanding the sinus cavity and allowing fluids to drain. This operation is the least invasive of all, requiring no cutting or removal of bone or tissue.
Sinusitis is unpleasant, but surgery is likely to bring long-term relief if you have tried various remedies without success. Speak to your ear, nose and throat doctor today to see if you are a candidate for one of these procedures.