Kicking sinusitis to the curb

All Woman

MOST of us have experienced the pain, difficulty breathing, and limited sense of smell and taste associated with a one-off episode of sinusitis.

If you fall within this cluster, perhaps you should be counting your lucky stars because, according to medical internist Dr Samantha Nicholson, for some people, these issues can be recurrent and debilitating. She said, when this happens the condition is described as chronic and requires medical intervention.

“Sinusitis is the inflammation or swelling of the tissue lining the sinuses. They can further become blocked and filled with fluid, which may encourage the growth of germs that may lead to an infection,” Dr Nicholson said.

She pointed out that sinusitis is diagnosed as chronic when the condition persists for more than three months, and persists despite medical intervention. It is usually brought on by an infection, however, nasal polyps as well as other medical conditions, such as immune system-related diseases, are also common culprits.

Dr Nicholson said both adults and children can be affected by the condition and that they may experience a range of discomforting and sometimes painful symptoms.

“Chronic sinusitis can severely affect one's quality of life, especially since it can feel like the person is getting no relief at all. In most cases, an episode usually starts off with a runny nose or discoloured postnasal drainage (thick and yellow in consistency or as Jamaicans would say, 'The cold ripe'); the person may later develop other symptoms such as a feeling of congestion or fullness in your face, a cough, headaches, face pain or pressure, nasal obstruction or nasal blockage (a stuffy nose), and pus in the nasal cavity,” the medical internist explained.

She said that someone with the condition may also experience sore throat, dizziness, tooth pain, bad breath, and might realise that they get tired more frequently than usual. She said urgent medical attention should be sought if the person notices that the other sinusitis symptoms are accompanied by fever, excessive feelings of drowsiness, vision change, swollen or bulging eyes, or neck rigidity.

“It is important that you see your doctor before symptoms become too severe because even though the chances are very rare, there is a possibility that you can develop vision problems as a result of infections from the sinuses migrating to the eye socket, resulting in reduced vision and sometimes even blindness (this may be temporary or permanent). Infections can also affect the bones and skin or cause inflammation and even meningitis,” Dr Nicholson said.

Fortunately, there are ways that individuals afflicted by sinusitis can reduce the chance of it becoming chronic or, if it already is, reduce their number of chronic episodes. These ways include managing allergies, which means not just acting on them when they realise that they are having flare-ups, but actually taking steps to avoid known allergens. This can be difficult but, as best as possible, avoid places where there is plenty air pollution and stay away from cigarette smoke.

One should also aim to avoid upper respiratory conditions, such as common colds, and, of course, you can do this by making the conscious effort to avoid sick people and by following proper hygiene guidelines. Individuals may also want to consider investing in humidifiers, which adds moisture to dry air, for their homes and offices. Humidifiers must be cleaned regularly.

“As it relates to managing chronic sinusitis, the key to addressing the problem is first to try to identify the source. If, for example, your doctor suspects that something you are allergic to is causing the episodes, he will order an allergy test. However, there are other tests he might conduct to make a chronic sinusitis diagnosis, such a CT (computerized tomography) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans or cultures, in instances that the condition does not readily respond to treatment,” Dr Nicholson advised.

She said that once the diagnosis is confirmed, the doctor usually prescribes medications such as nasal corticosteroids, which helps to treat inflammation when symptoms are milder, however, for more severe forms of the condition, oral or injected corticosteroids as well as antibiotics may be recommended. Sometimes the condition might not respond to medication and your health provider might recommend endoscopic sinus surgery to relieve the symptoms.

— Penda Honeyghan

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