Pollution, smoking, allergens and bacteria play a major role in causing sinusitis, say experts
If you have been experiencing tenderness in the face, swelling around the nose or eyes, congestion in the nose, greenish nasal discharge, soreness in the throat, headaches similar to migraines, pain in the jaw, ears or teeth, and bad breath, you could one among the millions across the world who seek treatment for sinusitis every year.
“Sinusitis is a condition that causes inflammation of the sinuses, which are air-filled cavities located behind the forehead and eyebrows, within the cheekbones, on either side of the nose, and just behind the eyes. They also have openings which drain into the nasal cavity. This disease can be caused by several factors such as a bacterial or fungal infection, smoking, environmental pollution or an allergy. In its acute form, sinusitis can last from three to eight weeks; symptoms lasting more than three weeks qualify it as chronic,” said Dr. Seejo George, Specialist ENT Surgeon, Medeor 24×7 Hospital in Dubai.
According to statistics by the Dubai Health Authority, nearly 20 per cent of the UAE population suffers from chronic sinusitis. Sinuses are lined with mucous membranes (which have cells that produce mucous) and tiny hair-like structures called cilia, which trap dust particles that come in as we inhale oxygen.
“Every time we breathe, our sinus openings receive oxygen and they produce mucus. However, when a person has congestion in the nose (due to a cold or allergic condition), the sinus opening also gets blocked. As a result, the mucus remains in the sinus cavity, leaving the rest of the lining dry. As this mucus builds up, it can eventually cause infection of the sinus cavity causing severe headache, pain in and around the eyes and pain radiating to nearby areas, “ said Dr Seejo.
Smoking can exacerbate this condition as nicotine paralyses the cilia, leaving it unable to protect the nasal passage from infection causing bacteria. Poor indoor air quality can contribute to aggravating the condition, as mould, dust and pollen can trigger off allergies, which in turn, can also allergic reactions such as colds, coughs and sneezing that cause inflammation in the nasal passage.
“Spending long periods in air conditioned environments can also dry out the nasal passage, triggering sinus infections. People with narrow nasal passages, nasal polyps (growths) and a deviated septum are also prone to sinus infections,” he continued.
“Diagnosing the condition may involve checking symptoms along with a sinus CT scan, especially if the symptoms have lasted longer than eight weeks. An ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist may conduct an endoscopic examination of your nose and sinus openings. Mucus cultures will also be done to rule out or confirm if an infection (from fungus or bacteria) is causing the sinusitis. This is an important test as it determines if the patient requires antibiotics or anti-fungal medications, or even oral steroids to treat the condition. An allergy test may also be conducted to check if allergens are responsible for the problem,” said Dr George.
The standard treatment for sinusitis involves the use of antibiotics taken over a course lasting a few days to longer depending on the severity of the condition. Topical nasal decongestants can be helpful if used for three to four days. These medications shrink swollen nasal passages, facilitating the flow of drainage from the sinuses. Antihistamines can be prescribed if the source of the condition involves allergens. Topical nasal corticosteroids can stop and even reverse swelling in the sinus openings and nasal passages. Your doctor may also recommend a nasal saline rinse to remove the thickened secretions blocking the nasal passage.
“Surgery is often suggested for patients who have anatomical problems that cause or even worsen the condition. An ENT surgeon can correct flaws in the bone by separating the nasal passages, eliminating nasal polyps, or opening up closed passages. The surgery is performed under either local or general anesthesia, and patients often can go home on the same day,” said Dr George.
All these steps can go a long way in preventing and treating sinusitis. However, getting the appropriate diagnosis and treatment is crucial. “Patients sometimes confuse the symptoms with conditions such as the common cold. However, if you persistently suffer from symptoms, see a doctor as soon as possible to get relief,” said Dr. Mohamed Berer, Medical Director at Medeor 24×7 Hospital, Dubai. “Our hospital is committed to raising awareness on such conditions that are dependent on environmental and habitual triggers in the hope of encouraging people to seek treatment for their illnesses.”