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5 Myths of Sinusitis

What is sinusitis?

Sinusitis is the infection of the paranasal sinuses, the air-filled spaces in the face. Sinusitis happens due to fluid buildup in these air-filled pockets, which become the breeding ground for various bacteria and viruses. Most sinusitis is due to virus infection, and only a few are due to bacterial infection.


Some of the common risk factors associated with sinusitis are:

● History of cold or allergic rhinitis
● Allergy to seasonal changes
● Smoking
● Exposure to secondhand smoke
● Anatomical abnormalities in sinuses
● Nasal polyps or growths on the sinus linings
● Weakened immune system
● Immunosuppressant drugs


What are the symptoms of sinusitis?

Some of the common symptoms of sinusitis are:

● Runny nose
● Blocked nose
● Facial pain
● Post nasal drip (mucus dripping through the throat)
● A feeling of heaviness on the face
● Headache

● Cough
● Sore throat
● Halitosis or Bad breath


What are the types of sinusitis?

Based on the frequency, sinusitis can be of two types:

Acute Sinusitis: The symptoms of sinusitis last for twelve weeks or less in acute sinusitis.
Chronic Sinusitis: If the symptoms of sinusitis last for more than 12 weeks, it is called chronic sinusitis.


Every year, around 10 percent of people deal with the unpleasant experience of acute and chronic sinusitis. Not only the sinus infection and the symptoms are common. But the myth surrounding this condition is also quite prevalent. Many of these myths are due to a lack of awareness about sinusitis causes and manifestations, while others are misconceptions passed down through the generations.


Regardless of their origins, understanding the difference between the real and the fiction can help you find the best management strategies you need for sinus infections.


Myth1: Antibiotics are the best treatment option for sinusitis.

One of the most common myths about sinusitis is its treatment. When we hear the word infection, we presume it is always due to bacteria. While bacteria can cause sinusitis, it is not the only causative agent. Viruses and fungi are also among the common causes of sinusitis. When we talk of chronic sinusitis, most of the symptoms are due to inflammation of the sinus cavities and not necessarily due to viruses, bacteria, or fungi.


Antibiotics can give you some relief from sinusitis trouble when it is sure that only bacteria are responsible for it. Antibiotics would not be helpful in case of viral and fungal infections. Also, antibiotics can not help when the symptoms are due to tissue inflammation. Taking antibiotics in absence of any bacterial infection can cause more harm than good.


Myth2: The only cause of sinus headaches is sinusitis

The most common cause of sinus headache is inflammation and pressure built up in sinus cavities, which can be due to sinusitis. But sometimes, you can experience sinus headaches, even without any history of sinusitis or any other current sinus infection. Some of the conditions that may cause sinus headaches other than sinusitis are:

● Common cold
● Allergies
● Migraine


Myth3: You can tell the type of infection just by looking at the color of the mucus.

The color of the mucus or nasal discharge often fascinates us. We feel the color can tell us the causative organ. If the color is yellow, it can be a virus infection. If the color is green, some of us feel it is due to bacteria. So it means colorless nasal discharge should be equivalent to no infection. The entire hypothesis of diagnosing the cause of sinusitis just by looking at its color does not hold.


The nasal discharge associated with sinusitis is usually discolored and thicker than usual. Also, no rule book can tell the type of infection based on the color of the mucus. The white discoloration is because of the presence of white blood cells in the mucus discharge.


Myth4: Sinusitis is contagious. If your friends and family have it, you will also get it.

Most people confuse sinusitis with other infections like colds and flu. The cold and flu are contagious, and you can use your best hygiene measures like avoid sharing glasses, utensils, or airspace with an infected person to prevent the spread of infection. On the other hand, sinusitis is usually noncontagious. Your spouse, parents, siblings, or friends cannot give their sinusitis to you.


Myth5: Treatment of sinusitis is inconvenient for both doctor and the patient.

In earlier times, the treatment of chronic sinusitis was complex. The patient has to undergo a long cycle to recover completely.


But recent advancements in sinus surgery have made the surgical management of sinusitis convenient for the patient and the surgeon. Newer procedures like endoscopic sinus surgery and balloon sinuplasty are minimally invasive, resulting in shorter recovery periods and zero external visible scars on the nose. These procedures even do not involve nasal packing.


One thing worth noting here is not all sinusitis needs surgical interventions. Most doctors start with a conservative treatment approach, including medical management and home remedies.


Your doctor may consider surgery only if you are not responding to other treatment options.


The conclusion:

Sinusitis or sinus inflammation is one of the most prevalent upper respiratory tract disorders. Most of the symptoms of sinusitis resemble cold and allergic rhinitis, but the etiology of all three are different, and so are the treatment options.


There are many myths surrounding sinusitis. Awareness of the condition not only helps us dissipate these myths but can also help in choosing the right way to manage this condition.


Also, do not hesitate to see a doctor if you have:

● Severe headache
● Severe facial pain
● Symptoms worsen over time
● Symptoms lasting more than a week
● Fever for more than 3-4 days
● History of multiple sinus infections

Dr. Poonam Gautam
ENT, Head and Neck Surgery
Meet The Doctor
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