Sinusitis is a common condition that can cause significant symptoms and impact quality of life. In the United States alone, there are an estimated 20 to 50 million people who experience sinusitis at any given time. However, with the right treatment and care, most sufferers can achieve good remission of their condition without any long-term side effects. Sinusitis can be caused by infection, such as bacterial or viral infections, or inflammation of the sinus lining. These conditions can lead to chronic sinusitis over time. Other causes of sinusitis include inhalant allergies, environmental pollution, and structural abnormalities in the nasal cavity (eg: deviated septum). In rare cases, sinusitis can cause more serious conditions, such as infections of the eye or even the brain.
What is sinusitis?
Sinusitis is inflammation of the sinuses, which are tissue lined air spaces in the skull located between your eyes and nose. It can be caused by a number of factors including infections, allergies, structural abnormalities, and hormonal imbalances. In its mildest form, sinusitis can cause general symptoms such as discomfort in the face and forehead, smell loss, or nasal congestion. More severe cases may lead to more specific symptoms such as intractable headache, vision loss, or fever from extension outside the sinus cavities. Sinusitis usually causes one or more symptoms for a number of weeks before it resolves on its own, but invasive sinusitis can lead to serious conditions including meningitis, brain fluid leak, eye infections, and optic nerve compression.
Types of sinusitis
There are many different types of sinusitis, but all cases involve inflammation of the sinuses. Here are some types of sinusitis to be aware of:
- Chronic Rhinosinusitis with Nasal Polyps: These tiny growths develop when the tissue in your nose becomes inflamed and swells. They can obstruct airflow in your nose and make it more difficult to breathe. Nasal polyps can also cause a chronic sense of smell loss or even permanent damage to the senses if left untreated for too long.
- Odontogenic Sinusitis: Odontogenic sinusitis is a sinus infection that is contracted through contact with an infected tooth. Symptoms of odontogenic sinusitis can include cheek pain and pressure on the side of the infection, tooth pain, foul odor, and thick nasal drainage. In some cases, the infection may spread to other parts of the body, including the lungs. If left untreated, odontogenic sinusitis can lead to complications such as vision loss, eye infection, and pneumonia. To avoid contracting this type of infection, be sure to keep your teeth clean and healthy and to seek medical help if you experience symptoms of odontogenic sinusitis.
- Sinus Tumor: Sinus tumors can grow and damage surrounding nasal structures including cartilage, bone, membranes, and nerves. If left untreated, a sinus tumor may spread into other areas of your body through the blood vessels surrounding it and cause serious complications such as metastasis or death.
Complications of sinusitis
Complications of sinusitis are rare but can be severe. Altered smell or smell loss is a common complication of sinusitis. This symptom can be related to either obstruction of the airflow to the olfactory nerves or can be due to damage of the nerves. Mucoceles can also arise from scarring related to the inflammation of sinusitis. A mucocele is formed when the sinus opening is sealed and secretions can no longer drain out of the sinus cavity. A mucocele can expand and compress structures around the sinuses, such as the eye and brain. Extension of infection to the surrounding structures, such as the eye and brain, can also be a complication of sinusitis. These conditions need to be treated promptly to prevent permanent damage.
Is sinusitis life-threatening?
Sinusitis is usually not life-threatening. However, some cases are more severe than others and may lead to the following complications: 1) Altered smell or smell loss. 2) Compressive mucoceles. 3) Infection extending to the eye or brain
Visit us at SinusHealth for more information on sinusitis and the medical complications it can cause. Our board-certified otolaryngologists provide trusted answers to your questions about nasal and sinus conditions and treatment methods. You can also contact us online!