Sinuses refer to the cavities inside your skull. They are situated around the nose and eyes and the front of the face. Most people have eight sinus cavities which extend to behind the forehead. These cavities help make your skull is lighter and produce mucus to add moisture to the nasal passages, and provide a protective layer that keeps out unwanted particles like dirt, pollutants, and infectious organisms.
The sinuses are lined with fine hair-like cells called cilia that help drain mucus from the passages and out through the nose.
Sometimes, the sinus system experiences polyps (growths), a thickened lining, repeated infections, and other problems. Some people are also born with improperly shaped sinuses. All these issues can lead to a respiratory difficulty that requires treatment.
Some sinus infections may clear up with time, while some require antibiotics but only if they result from a bacterial infection. Other type of sinus inflammation may require other types of treatment.
What Causes Sinus Infection?
A sinus infection is medically called acute sinusitis. It occurs when a person’s nasal cavities become swollen, inflamed, or infected. The primary cause of sinusitis is a viral upper respiratory infection that often persists after other upper respiratory symptoms dissipate. However, in some cases, bacterial infection or even fungal infection may develop after a viral sinusitis thus requiring treatment.
Conditions like allergies, tooth infections, and nasal polyps can contribute to sinus symptoms and pain.
Acute sinusitis lasts for a short time – often less than four weeks, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology. It is usually part of a common cold or other respiratory illness.
Chronic sinus infections can last for over 12 weeks or continue to recur. The primary criteria for sinus infection include facial pain, congestion, and infected nasal discharge. Since many sinusitis signs and symptoms are common to both chronic and acute forms, it is better to see your ENT doctor for treatment.
The full symptoms of a sinus infection include:
- Pain in your sinuses. Inflammation and swelling can cause a dull pressure ache in your sinuses. You may feel pain on your nose, in your forehead, between your eyes, and in your upper teeth and jaw.
- Nasal discharge: Sinus infection often has a nasal discharge that may be yellow, green, or cloudy. It comes from your infected sinuses and can drain into your nasal passages or down your throat resulting in an itch, a tickle, or a sore throat.
- Nasal congestion: A sinus infection causes swelling in your nasal passages and sinuses, leading to congestion and restricting how well you breathe.
- Sinus headaches: The persistent swelling and pressure in your sinuses cause headaches that are worst in the morning or during sudden changes in your environment’s barometric pressure.
- Throat irritation and cough: Discharge from your sinuses can lead to throat irritation and a persistent, annoying cough.
- Sore throat and hoarse voice: Postnasal drip (discharge that flows down your throat) can cause a raw and aching throat that worsens with time and causes hoarse voice.
What is Sinus Surgery?
Sinus surgery refers to a procedure done to open up the sinuses’ pathways and clear blockages. It’s an option for people suffering from recurrent and ongoing sinus infections. It’s also recommended for people with abnormal growths in their sinus or an abnormal sinus structure. It can be performed via a simple office procedure, called Balloon Sinuplasty, or an outpatient surgery, called Endoscopic Sinus Surgery.
Types of Sinus Surgery
The most common chronic sinusitis’ surgical procedure is the in-office balloon sinuplasty procedure or the outpatient minimally invasive endoscopic sinus surgery. However, certain types of rare tumors of the sinus or aggressive fungal infections may call for external or traditional surgical approaches that involve incisions in the forehead (over the eyebrows) or the gum line.
Surgeries used on the sinuses include:
- Minimally Invasive Imag-Guided Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery: The procedure uses an endoscope (a lighted tube) to look into the nose and sinuses. The surgeon can then remove tissue, enlarge sinus openings for drainage, or clean out the passages.
- Balloon Sinuplasty: Here, the surgeon inserts a catheter with an inflated balloon into the sinus and inflates it to widen the openings.
- Open sinus surgery: They occur in complicated cases of chronic sinusitis. The surgeon cuts over the sinus to open it, remove any diseased tissue, and then reconstruct the sinus.
When is Sinus Surgery Recommended?
It depends on the cause. Sinusitis refers to swelling in the sinuses that causes discomfort and congestion. Several things can cause blockage in your nasal passages, including:
- Infections by viruses, bacteria, or fungi
- Small growths (Polyps) that occur on the lining of your sinuses
- A deviated septum, which means a crooked wall in between the nostrils
Your primary doctor may recommend a nose and sinus specialist if you fail to get relief from antibiotics, nasal sprays, decongestants, nasal rinses, and other treatments. The primary goal of sinus surgery is to relieve your symptoms and reduce the number of infections you get. Surgery can help you breathe better and improve your sense of smell or taste.
Alcohol after Sinus Surgery
According to Reuters Health’s review of past studies, alcohol and surgery are a terrible mix. People who take alcohol daily have an increased risk of post-surgical complications compared to light drinkers and teetotalers. The most common complications are infections and slow wound healing. It’s the reason why surgeons advise against drinking alcohol in the days leading up to surgery and after.
Post-Operative Instructions for Sinus Surgery
The close relationship between your sinus and the upper back teeth can sometimes result in intentional or unintentional communication between the mouth and sinus. The precautions below can help assist healing post-surgery:
- Expect slight bleeding from the nose for up to 48 hours, and possibly longer. However, never take your pain medication or swallow blood on an empty stomach, as it can cause nausea.
- Try not to sneeze and keep your mouth open if you must.
- Sleep with your head raised, or use an extra pillow for 24 to 48 hours after surgery.
- Avoid exercise for about one week.
- Avoid alcohol and smoking for a week or two.
- Apply moist heat over the area where the IV was placed if it is tender, uncomfortable, or bruised.
- Take all the prescribed medications as instructed and without failure.
- Follow your sinus rinse protocol after surgery diligently to allow for excellent healing and avoid scarring in your nose and sinuses.
Why Choose Dr. Alen Cohen at the Southern California Sinus Institute
If you have chronic sinus infections, nasal congestion, a deviated septum, chronic runny nose, daily sinus headaches, or exhibit symptoms like snoring, then Dr. Alen Cohen at the Southern California Sinus Institute in West Hills can help.
Dr. Alen N. Cohen is a nationally renowned nose and sinus surgeon and practices in Los Angeles in the Southern California region. He offers consultations, evaluations, and procedures to help reduce nasal and sinus infections and disorders to improve your symptoms and help you breathe normally through your nose permanently.
Contact us today and schedule an appointment.