Sinus & Allergy

What Happens If You Let A Sinus Infection Go Untreated?

written by Becki Andrus
What Happens If You Let A Sinus Infection Go Untreated

A sinus infection might start with annoying, inconvenient symptoms: congestion, discomfort, and sinus pressure. But don’t assume these symptoms will go away on their own.

If left untreated, sinus infections can result in ongoing pain and discomfort that lasts for months. Sometimes, an untreated sinus infection can lead to serious complications – that could have been prevented with early interventions.

The key to avoiding severe complications from an untreated sinus infection is to talk to an ENT as soon as possible. When you can see that the symptoms are lingering, then it might be time to book an appointment for a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Initial Stages of a Sinus Infection

In most situations, a sinus infection is a secondary infection that occurs after another illness or health concern. For example, you might have a head cold that develops into a sinus infection because of the congestion. Or, chronic allergies can cause conditions that result in sinus infections.

When a sinus infection occurs, it means that there is swelling, inflammation, and infection in the sinus areas. Typically, sinuses are open cavities filled with air. When drainage is blocked, then an infection can occur.

In the earliest stages of a sinus infection, you’ll likely feel discomfort and pressure in the sinus areas. It’s common to have congestion, which could lead to a blocked sinus – making it hard to breathe through one side of your nose.

As the symptoms progress, the pain intensifies. An untreated sinus infection can disrupt every area of your life, making it hard to get through the day because of the pressure and pain.

Types of Sinus Infections

During your visit with an ENT, it’s crucial to identify the potential causes of your sinus infections. Identifying the root of your health concerns helps the doctor design an optimal treatment plan to alleviate your pain.

It’s common for sinus infections to be caused by a viral infection, which means that you can use at-home care for a few days. The symptoms will usually clear up in a week to 10 days, with over-the-counter remedies to help you stay comfortable.

Blocked, congested sinuses can also be the perfect breeding ground for the growth of bacteria. For example, there are times when it starts as a viral infection, then develops into a bacterial sinus infection.

Another potential cause of sinus discomfort is a fungal infection. Treatment for this type of condition may require different kinds of medication or surgery to clear up the infection.

Keep in mind that certain health conditions might contribute to the risk of sinus infections but don’t cause the infections directly:

These health issues result in sinus blockages, which creates the conditions for an infection to form.

When a Sinus Infection Goes Untreated

A sinus infection can drag on for weeks or months if you don’t talk to a doctor. Sometimes, the infection will clear up on its own. But if the symptoms linger, then you could be facing rare complications from the ongoing infection:

  • Eyes: The infection can spread to other parts of the face and affect the eyes. You might notice swelling, redness, and vision disruptions. Severe cases could result in blindness.
  • Brain: It’s rare, but there are times when the infection spreads to the brain. This problem can cause meningitis or a brain abscess, which can both be life-threatening conditions.
  • Treatments: Early sinus infection treatment might include a prescription or minimally-invasive services. If the infection spreads, then it might be necessary for you to have a CT scan and receive IV antibiotics.
  • Recurring: Some people notice that the symptoms get better, then quickly return with a vengeance. Chronic sinus issues can result in a need for surgery if not improving with medication.

Most sinus infections don’t result in serious complications. But the possibility of an eye or brain infection should be enough to motivate someone to talk to a doctor about the infection.

Do You Need to Talk to an ENT?

As you can see, untreated sinus infections aren’t something that you should ignore. If you suffer from chronic sinus issues, then it might be time to talk to an ear, nose, and throat specialist about your condition.

Here are a few signs that you should book an appointment with an ENT for a sinus infection:

  • Symptoms continue for more than 10 days
  • Recurring infections throughout the year
  • Discolored, thick nasal discharge
  • Pressure and pain that is interrupting your daily life
  • At-home or over-the-counter treatments don’t provide relief
  • Pain and discomfort are increasing with time

A general practitioner can help with occasional sinus infections, but they will refer you to see an ENT for recurring, chronic conditions. Primary care doctors are limited to prescription medications for treatments. On the other hand, an ENT can address sinus infections with a range of other treatments.

Sinus Infection Treatment Options

Mild sinus infections can be managed at home using over-the-counter decongestants, sinus rinses, and rest. If the symptoms don’t go away after about a week or 10 days, then it’s time to schedule an appointment with a doctor.

These are some of the treatments used by ENTs for sinus infections:

  • Medications: First, the doctor will identify the type of sinus infection, then prescribe an appropriate medication. Common medications include antibiotics, antifungal medications, nasal corticosteroids, or NSAIDs.
  • Surgery: If minimally-invasive treatments aren’t effective in clearing up the infection, then surgery might be recommended. For example, the doctor might use balloon sinuplasty or functional endoscopic sinus surgeryl to open up the sinus passages.
  • Underlying Causes: Why are you experiencing frequent sinus infections? A skilled ENT can help with preventive treatments to minimize the risk of recurring infections in the future.

Our team of ear, nose, and throat specialists dedicates the time and attention needed to support your unique health concerns. By designing a custom treatment plan, we help each patient find relief from mild and severe medical concerns.

Personalized Care for Sinus Infections

Whether you are experiencing an acute sinus infection or you have chronic sinusitis, Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat is here to help. Our patients receive customized care and our undivided attention, ensuring a quality treatment plan to help find relief.

For more information about ENT services for families in the Collin County or Dallas area, call Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat. We’ll schedule a consultation for you to visit a doctor at a nearby office in Frisco or Plano, TX. We have an online appointment form you can use or call to schedule a visit: (972) 596-4005.

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“This was my first time visiting this office. These folks were super friendly!! Starting with the front desk to all the help in the back, the Dr. Littlejohn was very patient and listened to all my concerns. I dealt with 5 people total due to testing and they all were genuinely nice! Loved it, and not to mention quick service. Great customer service, I’ll be sure to refer family and friends! ”

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“I have used Collin Co. ENT and Dr. Kenny Carter for over 3 years, primarily for ear problems. The staff has been consistently helpful and friendly to me. When I have had problems needing immediate attention and explained the need, have been able to get an appointment within a reasonable time to address the problem. I recommend Dr. Carter and his staff.”

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