Millions of people experience sinus infections at least once a year. This uncomfortable infection is a common reason for missing work or school. The symptoms, which include congestion, postnasal drip, fatigue, sore throat, and facial pain, can take days to resolve. For people who routinely experience these frustrating problems, it can feel empowering to understand why they occur in the first place.
How Sinus Infections Occur
The sinuses sit adjacent to hollow spaces of air in the skeletal structure of the head. They are situated near the nose and cheeks, as well as the forehead because there are multiple sinus cavities. The role that the sinuses play in the body is to produce mucus for the nasal passages. The slippery mucus acts as a protective barrier against pathogens, dust, and pollutants that may be inhaled. Pathogens include bacteria, fungi, and viruses. If a pathogen affects the nasal passages or sinuses, inflammation and thickening of the mucus membranes occur. This inflammation blocks mucus drainage, resulting in buildup. In a vicious cycle, the buildup of mucus further cultivates the growth of the offending pathogen. The same viruses that cause the common cold are notorious for causing sinus infections. Bacterial and fungal sinus infections can occur but are rare.
Diagnosing Sinus Infections
A thorough medical examination is the best way to diagnose symptoms as a sinus infection versus a common cold. Doing so is imperative to resolve symptoms as quickly as possible. To diagnose infection, a doctor review symptoms and examines the sinuses using an endoscope, a thin tube with a lighted tip. This examination can help rule out septal deviation, polyps, or other obstructions that may be causing symptoms.
Acute and subacute sinus infections are most often caused by a virus. These typically resolve in seven to ten days, just like the flu. However, some people experience the symptoms of a sinus infection several times a year. Chronic sinus infections could be left to resolve on their own but, because of their frequency, should be assessed by a sinus specialist. At St. Louis Sinus Center, we provide outstanding care for chronic sinus infections, otherwise known as chronic sinusitis. Whereas these repeated infections used to be treated with sinus surgery, Dr. Gould often remedies chronic sinusitis with balloon sinus dilation, an office procedure that has consistently achieved excellent results.