Sinuses are pairs of hollow, air-filled cavities around your nose, eyes, and forehead. Your sinuses produce mucus to keep your nasal passages lubricated and reduce the number of pathogens that reach your lungs.
Sinus infections usually develop due to exposure to bacteria or viruses. When you have sinusitis, the tissues that line your sinuses become inflamed and tender. Symptoms of sinusitis include:
- Stuffed nose
- Impaired sense of smell and taste
- Difficulty breathing
- Pain and pressure in your sinuses
- Runny nose
- Postnasal drip
- Pain and swelling around your cheeks, nose, eyes, and forehead
- Aching teeth
- Sore throat
If you suffer from a sinus infection that lasts for more than 12 weeks, you have chronic sinusitis. If you get sinus infections at least four times a year, you have recurrent sinusitis.
Catherine Fuller, MD, diagnoses and treats sinusitis, chronic sinusitis, and recurrent sinusitis at our office in West Los Angeles, California. Are you at risk for sinusitis? Following are the most common reasons why sinusitis develops into chronic sinus infections.
1. You didn’t resolve your first case of sinusitis
In most cases, sinusitis resolves on its own within a week or so, with proper rest and care, such as using nasal sprays and decongestants. However, if it persists, you may have a bacterial infection that requires a course of antibiotics to clear.
If your sinus infection persists for at least five days, seek a diagnosis so your doctor can prescribe antibiotics you need to kill the bacteria and restore your sinuses and nasal passages to health.
When you allow a bacterial sinus infection to persist, complications can include:
- More sinus blockages
- More infections
- Nasal polyps
Sinus infections caused by viruses and fungi don’t respond to antibiotics. However, if you have a bacterial infection, appropriate treatment may save you from developing chronic sinusitis.
2. You have allergies
You’re more likely to develop sinusitis and chronic sinusitis if you have allergies triggered by agents such as pollen, dust mites, or mold. Anything that irritates your nasal and sinus passages — including sensitivities to irritants such as cigarette smoke — makes you more susceptible to infections. Even using nasal decongestants regularly can raise your risk.
Whenever possible, avoid triggers that could irritate or inflame your sinus passages and kick off a bout of sinusitis.
You may want to look into immunotherapy to reduce your reaction to allergic substances. Use your allergy medications preventively, when you know you may be exposed to allergens, to reduce the chance of irritation and inflammation.
3. You have structural abnormalities
Anything that changes the structure of your nose and prevents it from doing its job fully puts you at risk for chronic sinus infections. Air should flow freely through your nose so that the hairs inside your nostrils — the cilia — can trap pathogens and warm the air. Abnormalities that prevent nasal efficiency include:
- Deviated septum
- Nasal polyps
- Ciliary dysfunction
Nasal polyps are growths that can also occur as a result of untreated sinusitis. These increase your chances for further cases. You may benefit from procedures that correct a deviated septum or remove polyps.
4. You have other medical conditions
You’re more likely to have chronic sinusitis if your body is already dealing with another medical condition, particularly those that affect your breathing or your immune system. Conditions associated with chronic sinusitis include:
- Middle ear infection (otitis media)
- Cystic fibrosis
- Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)
Do you have a sinus infection, or are you already battling chronic sinusitis? Call us at 310-828-7978 or use our online appointment request form to get personalized sinus care from Dr. Fuller.