Sinus & Allergy

Sinus Infection – What It Is and What to Do

written by Becki Andrus

The nasal and sinus passageways structure helps the body in many ways, with built-in functions to clear congestion and support your breathing. When something goes wrong in the sinus area, it can lead to the development of an infection, making it hard to get through the day.

Even though the symptoms are visible on the outside, the development of sinus pain and pressure can be debilitating. Seemingly minor infections can develop into serious issues, resulting in the need to visit an ENT as soon as possible.

If you are experiencing pain and pressure in the sinus areas, you might have a sinus infection. Here are a few things you need to know about this condition, including common symptoms and treatment options.

Structure and Function of the Sinuses

There are multiple sinus cavities in the facial area:

  • Near your cheekbones, on each side of your nose
  • Above your eyebrows on the forehead
  • Under the eyes, on each side of the bridge of your nose
  • Behind the eyes

These cavities are usually open, connecting a complex network of drainage and airflow. When you breathe in through your nose, the air moves through the nasal passages into the sinuses. The openings also contain mucus-producing areas to keep the site lubricated and coated to cleanse the sinus passages.

Not only do the sinuses support your breathing and filter out bacteria and dust, but they also affect your voice resonance, function as part of the immune system, and insulate against temperature changes in the nose.

What is a Sinus Infection?

When an infection develops in these open cavities, it can cause inflammation and increased congestion. Usually, the sinuses can drain through the nose and back of the throat. When these drainage pathways are blocked, then it creates conditions for an infection to develop.

Often, the problem starts with another issue, such as a head cold or allergies. The mucus and running nose lead to inflammation and blockages. Since the sinuses can’t drain, then the buildup of mucus can result in an infection.

The risk of a sinus infection goes up if you have a weak immune system or you are exposed to irritants – such as cigarette smoke or environmental compounds. Additionally, sinus infections can develop if you have an untreated dental infection.

What to Do: Sinus Infection Treatments at Home

The good news is that at-home treatments are often effective in clearing up sinus infections. When you are proactive with treatments in the earliest stages, it can help to get rid of the infection and reduce your symptoms without medical intervention.

If you suspect you have a sinus infection or nasal congestion, then try these treatments to alleviate the symptoms and help the infection heal:

  • Neti Pot: Rinsing the nasal passages can help to clear the congestion and open the sinuses. Always follow the doctor’s instructions for neti pots and sinus rinses. For example, only use distilled water and saline packets designed for nasal rinses.
  • Over the Counter Medications: You can buy over-the-counter sinus medications at a local pharmacy. Look for products with decongestants to reduce congestion or antihistamines if you have allergies.
  • Warm Steam: If you need to reduce the congestion, then a little steam can be helpful. Turn on a humidifier to add moisture to the air. Also, take a hot shower to let the steam open the sinuses.
  • Warm Compress: When you need immediate pain relief, put a warm, damp washcloth over your forehead and sinus areas. Lay down and let the heat loosen up the congestion and open these passageways.

Prevention is also important. When you are susceptible to sinus infections, then be aware of the triggers that lead to the development of symptoms. For example, if you know that seasonal allergies can lead to sinus infections, then be proactive about managing the allergies to reduce the frequency of sinus infections naturally.

Medical Treatments: Talk to an ENT about Sinus Infections

Sometimes the above home remedies aren’t enough to clear the infection. When the symptoms are hanging on, it might be time to reach out to an ENT for help. If you notice that the pain and pressure are intensifying and continuing for a week or more, then don’t delay an appointment to discuss treatments and medications.

The ENT will help you determine the cause of your sinus infection, then help you find the best treatment. For example, if it’s a viral infection, then antibiotics aren’t recommended.

But if the infection developed because of a secondary bacterial infection, then an antibiotic treatment can help alleviate the symptoms. In rare cases, antifungal medications are needed if the infection is a fungus.

When you have chronic symptoms, then talk to a doctor about preventive strategies and treatments. Addressing the underlying cause of your sinus infection is key to help you recover, such as nasal polyps, structural blockages, and other issues that make it difficult for the sinuses to heal.

Techniques such as balloon sinuplasty, nasal valve procedures, or endoscopic sinus surgery can be the answer to provide lasting results and relief from these chronic infections.

Personalized Treatment Plan for Sinus Infections

While sinus infections are often linked to a few common causes, it’s essential to work with a doctor and understand the underlying reasons why you are experiencing these symptoms. An ENT will assist with thorough diagnostic services, as well as a personalized treatment plan.

Our goal is to not only alleviate your symptoms right now but also provide the ongoing support you need to avoid sinus infections in the future. We offer a patient-focused approach with full-service solutions for people of all ages.

Do you need an ENT in the Collin County or Dallas area? Reach out to us at Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat to learn about the available services and treatments. We offer multiple offices nearby in Frisco or Plano, TX. You’re welcome to request an appointment through our online form or call to talk to our office: (972) 596-4005.

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