Are you among the 37 million Americans suffering from headaches, congestion, fatigue and other symptoms as a result of sinusitis, one of the most common chronic health problems in the U.S.?
"The sinuses are air-filled spaces found in the bones of the head and face," explained Otolaryngologist Wayland Wong, M.D. "They are located on either side of the nose in the cheeks, behind and between the eyes, in the forehead, and at the back of the nasal cavity."
The sinuses help trap and propel bacteria and pollutants outward and serve as part of the body's defense system against viruses and bacteria. "Like the inside of the nose, the sinuses are lined with a moist, thin layer of tissue called a mucous membrane that helps moisten the air as it is breathed in," Dr. Wong added. "However, when a person has a cold or allergies, this membrane gets irritated and inflamed. Inflammation leads to swelling, which may in turn, lead to an undrained collection of mucus in one or more of the sinuses. This mucus allows for bacterial overgrowth and can ultimately lead to a sinus infection, also known as sinusitis."
Symptoms of sinusitis include headache, pain, tender cheeks, swelling around the eyes, earaches, tenderness around the nose, a loss of smell and a stuffy nose. Fever can also be a symptom of a sinus infection or a cold.
"Any substance that interferes with the normal draining of the mucous membrane can bring on these symptoms, such as an allergy to plants, animals, or foods," Dr. Wong added. "In addition, a viral or bacterial infection, or a nasal obstruction like polyps or a deviated septum can affect the sinuses. People with asthma are also more susceptible."
"Sinusitis may be acute or chronic, in which case symptoms occur frequently or for long periods of time. Acute sinusitis usually lasts less than eight weeks or occurs no more than three times per year with each episode lasting no longer than 10 days. Chronic or recurring sinusitis lasts longer than eight weeks or occurs more than four times per year with symptoms usually lasting more than 20 days."
Treatment for Sinusitis
The treatment of sinusitis is usually directed toward symptom relief and clearing up the source of the inflammation or infection.
To promote drainage:
- Drink plenty of water and hydrating beverages such as hot tea.
- Inhale steam 2 to 4 times per day by leaning over a bowl of hot water (not while the water is on the stove) or using a steam vaporizer. Inhale the steam for about 10 minutes. Taking a hot, steamy shower may also work.
"Common treatments can include antibiotics, saline irrigations to wash and moisturize the mucous membranes, decongestants, nasal steroid spray or antihistamines," Dr. Wong said. "Other drugs to treat sinus infections include pain relievers and vasoconstrictors, which decrease nasal congestion. If the pain continues after using pain relievers, corticosteroids may be prescribed to further decrease the inflammation. When an allergen is causing the sinus flare-ups, preventive allergy therapy is often needed."
"Decongestant medications may also be used to relieve headaches associated with sinus infections. Decongestants help reduce headache symptoms because they constrict blood vessels that cause headache pain. However, decongestant use can be habit-forming. If your headaches seem to be relieved by decongestants but you do not have a sinus infection, you may actually have a migraine or tension headache, which require other types of treatment."
At least 20 percent of people with chronic sinusitis do not respond adequately to medications. "While there is no cure for chronic sinusitis, surgery has been shown to enhance the quality of life in people for whom medical therapy is ineffective," Dr. Wong advised. "The goal of surgery is to re-establish ventilation and drainage of the diseased sinus spaces by widening the drainage pathways."
Dr. Wong is one of the first surgeons in the area to offer balloon sinuplasty for the treatment of chronic sinusitis. This technology uses minimally invasive sinus balloon catheters to position a balloon into the blocked sinus passageway. The balloon is then inflated to gently restructure and open the sinus passageway, which facilitates normal sinus drainage. Because this is a non-invasive procedure, there is no packing required.
"The Balloon Sinuplasty devices are an advance in sinus care," Dr. Wong concluded. "In many cases this procedure can be done without removing any tissue or bone. That means quicker recovery times and less discomfort post-procedure. In many cases, patients may return to work in three days."
People who are considering their treatment options can learn more about Balloon Sinuplasty by contacting Dr. Wong or by visiting www.BalloonSinuplasty.com.
Dr. Wong will also be presenting a community educational program about this topic on Thursday evening, Dec. 9 at the Salem Community Center, 1098 North Ellsworth in Salem. At 6:30 p.m., participants can view displays and complete a sinus screening assessment, and then Dr. Wong will present "New Trends in Sinus Treatment." at 7 p.m. Please contact Salem Community Hospital's marketing department at 330-332-7152, to register for this free program.
Appointments with Dr. Wong can also be scheduled by calling Salem Ear, Nose and Throat, at 330-337-4900. Dr. Wong's office is located on the second floor of the Salem Medical Center across from Salem Community Hospital, at 2094 East State Street, Suite A, in Salem.