Roughly 1 in 8 adults will suffer a sinus infection this year. The facial
pressure, stopped-up nose, loss of smell and pounding headaches can make
“Your sinuses are hollow cavities hidden within the bones of the
face, around the nose. Normally, the lining of the sinuses produces mucus
that drains into the nose. But when that lining becomes inflamed, sinus
outflow gets blocked and the mucus stagnates, creating a breeding ground
for bacteria and infection,” Drs.
Mark Hunter and
Angela Paddack — specialists in Ear, Nose and Throat conditions – explained
to a crowd of nearly 160 people during a free health lecture held on Feb.
16 at the Boulder Jewish Community Center.
Sinus infections can range in severity – from acute sinus infections
that last less than one month to chronic infections that drag on for months or years.
Treatments for short-term sinus infection
Typically, acute infections are caused by viruses and improve on their
own. Dr. Paddack said that Tylenol and ibuprofen work well for both pain
relief and swelling. Other over-the-counter remedies for short-term infections include:
- Decongestants such as Sudafed
- Nasal steroid sprays, including Flonase, Nasacort, Rhinocort and Nasonex
- Nasal saline rinses (neti pots)
Dr. Paddack warned that over-the-counter nasal sprays containing oxymetazoline,
such as Afrin, can initially help relieve congestion, but they shouldn’t
be used for more than three days.
“With extended use of oxymetazoline spray, you develop the risk of
rebound congestion and dependence, which is a vicious cycle of overuse,”
she said. "The spray works well, but when you stop it, you get congested.
So you end up needing more frequent applications to get relief."
If over-the-counter options aren't working and symptoms last more than
10 days, bacteria might be the culprit. Talk with your health care provider
to determine whether you need an antibiotic to stomp out the infection.
Treating chronic infection
Symptoms that last longer than 12 weeks could indicate a chronic sinus
According to Dr. Hunter, chronic sinus problems can stem from infection,
allergy, genetic predisposition, autoimmune disorders or structural abnormalities
such as a deviated septum and nasal polyps. Treatment varies, depending
upon the cause.
He said, “Medical therapy for chronic sinus infection includes saline
rinses, nasal steroid sprays, antibiotics and oral steroids. If these
medical therapies fail or there are complications, surgery may help."
“The point of sinus surgery is to widen sinus openings and clear
away any infection,” Dr. Hunter explained. “Sometimes the
surgery doesn’t cure the underlying issue, such as allergies, but
it can make the sinuses more receptive to medications.”
The latest surgical options for chronic sinus infection include endoscopic
sinus surgery and balloon sinuplasty.
Dr. Hunter said, “Endoscopic sinus surgery is the current gold standard.
Over the years, endoscopic technology and techniques have become increasing
more accurate and less invasive. We can go in, remove diseased tissue
and open up sinuses, typically with mild pain and short recovery times."
Balloon sinuplasty is a fairly new technology that’s a less invasive option.
"It’s a gentle, in-office procedure that we sometimes consider,”
he said. “The downside of balloon sinuplasty is that it’s
appropriate for only a very small set of patients. For example, if you
have too many polyps, this may not be for you.”
The sinuses are located near important structures, including the eyes,
brain and carotid artery. To avoid injuries to these structures, surgeons
must know exactly where they're placing surgical instruments, which
is the reason Drs. Hunter and Paddack use image-guided surgery (IGS).
“IGS significantly enhances the safety and effectiveness of a surgery,”
Dr. Paddack said. “In some ways it's similar to GPS. It helps
us navigate within the sinuses by delivering real-time images and constantly
calculating where instruments are located in relation to the patient’s
If you suffer from symptoms of sinus infection, schedule an appointment
Mark Hunter, MD, or
Angela Paddack, MD, by calling (303) 440-3073.
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