When to Seek Medical Care for Sinus Problems


When to Seek Medical Care for Sinus Problems

If you suffer from frequent problems such as a stuffy nose, sinus pressure, or infections, you may have more than a recurring cold. Your symptoms may be due to an underlying problem that needs medical attention. By seeking help sooner rather than later, you can prevent a sinus problem from worsening or causing unnecessary complications.

Per the University of Michigan, chronic sinus issues affect over 30 million and account for over 16 million doctor visits per year. People with recurring nasal issues who often get colds or sinus infections should seek the help of an ear, nose, and throat doctor (also known as an otolaryngologist).

The otolaryngologist can identify and diagnose the root cause of your symptoms and offer treatments that provide lasting relief so you can breathe easier.

What is sinusitis

Sinusitis, or sinus inflammation, is a common condition. When the sinus cavities inside the nose, cheeks, and forehead become inflamed, the passages become blocked, resulting in a stuffy or runny nose and pressure, causing discomfort or pain, and making it more difficult to breathe. If the inflammation persists, sinusitis can turn into a chronic concern.

A sinus infection occurs when fluid builds up in the nasal passages and bacteria or viruses begin to grow. Environmental irritants such as smoke, pollution, and strong odors can exacerbate the problem, leading to more swelling and greater difficulty draining. This prolonged irritation and buildup then turn into chronic sinusitis.

Both children and adults can suffer from sinusitis and other nasal problems, although sinus infections are more common in adults. These infections can be uncomfortable and painful, and if they don’t clear up on their own, proper medical attention can offer relief.

Symptoms of acute and chronic sinusitis

There are two main categories of sinusitis: acute and chronic. Sinusitis that lasts less than a month is considered acute, but if it lingers for three months or more it’s regarded as chronic.

Symptoms of sinusitis can vary, but may include:

  • Stuffy, congested nose with thick nasal drainage
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Discolored yellow-green mucus from the nose
  • Cough and/or sore throat
  • Cold symptoms lasting longer than normal
  • Pain and/or pressure in your face, head, and eyes
  • Loss of smell
  • Elevated temperature
  • Toothache
  • Nose bleeds
  • Bad breath

What causes sinus issues

The top causes of sinus issues are allergies, asthma, and viral infections, including common colds. Sinusitis can be viral, bacterial, or allergic. Structural abnormalities such as a deviated nasal septum can predispose people to developing sinus problems and infections.

There are many causes of sinus problems, including:

  • Allergies
  • Tooth infection
  • Nasal polyps
  • Deviated septum
  • Nasal tumors, or
  • An obstruction

When to see a doctor for sinus issues

If a sinus problem doesn’t clear up within a few weeks, you should see an ear, nose, and throat doctor to find relief. These specialists are skilled at identifying and treating sinus issues successfully to address the problem and improve your quality of life.

Early intervention is important. By seeking help sooner, you can prevent a sinus problem from worsening or causing unnecessary complications.

Treatment for sinus problems

There are multiple treatment options available to address sinus issues and sinusitis. These include over-the-counter medication or, in the case of bacterial sinusitis, antibiotics, which can be prescribed by an ear, nose, and throat doctor. Additionally, you may be advised to use a nasal irrigation tool such as a neti pot to flush excess mucus and potential irritants from your nose.

If you have recurring sinus problems and have been diagnosed with a structural issue or polyps, surgery may be recommended. The good news is, today’s sinus surgeries are less invasive than in the past, and often result in less pain in recovery and better surgery outcomes.

How to protect your sinuses from infection

There are some simple things you can do to protect your sinuses from infection on a daily basis. They include:

  • Avoiding known allergens
  • Using nasal saline spray
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Inhaling steam regularly and/or utilize a humidifier

If you’ve been experiencing chronic nasal problems or sinusitis, WWMG’s Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor can provide you with an assessment, diagnosis, and treatment options to help you find relief and get back to enjoying life fully. Request an appointment with our care team today.