Chronic sinusitis is more than just a common cold. It’s also more than a case of acute sinusitis, although people do confuse the two or have trouble telling the difference. If you’re dealing with congestion, pain in the facial area, and thick mucus, you most likely have a case of sinusitis. Here are a few ways to tell if you’re facing an acute sinus infection or a longer lasting case of chronic sinusitis.
Symptoms Can Be Similar
The symptoms for acute or chronic sinusitis are usually pretty similar. The sinuses are cavities in your head, behind the nose, forehead and under the eyes. Sinuses are full of air and typically produce mucus to help filter the air you breath and to keep the nasal passages and airways clear of debris.
When you’re dealing with sinusitis or a sinus infection, the cavities become inflamed. You usually end up with a thick nasal discharge, which can be green in color, and which can drain out of your nostrils or down your throat. Another common symptom of both acute and chronic sinus infections is a feeling of congestion, which makes it difficult to breathe through the nose. You’re also likely to have a lessened sense of smell and taste and may experience pain and pressure in the eyes, forehead or nose.
How Long Your Symptoms Last
If symptoms of acute and chronic sinusitis are so similar, how can you tell them apart? The key difference between the two is how long they last. Both types last longer than a cold, or might actually develop after a cold. The symptoms of an acute sinus infection usually clear up after a week or so and definitely don’t last more than four weeks.
On the other hand, the symptoms of a chronic sinus infection last for much longer, for at least 12 weeks. People with chronic sinus infections continue to deal with symptoms even if they are getting treatment for the infection.
There’s one more type of sinusitis that’s worth knowing about, and that’s a recurring case of acute sinusitis. If you have sinus symptoms for a few weeks at a time, more than two or three times a year, you’re likely dealing with recurrent acute sinusitis.
What Causes Acute or Chronic Sinusitis
The causes of acute or chronic sinusitis can be the same or different. For example, both types of sinus infection can be caused by bacteria. A bacterial infection can make the lining of the sinuses irritated and inflamed, affecting drainage and causing the common symptoms of either an acute or chronic infection. In some cases, sinusitis can be caused by a virus or a fungal infection, instead of bacteria.
While either acute or chronic sinus infections can be caused by an infectious agent, it’s more common for chronic sinusitis to be caused by a blockage in the sinuses. People who have a deviated septum or sinus polyps might suffer from long-term sinus problems, as the septum or polyps block the sinus cavities and make it difficult for them to drain or for a person to breathe.
If you suffer from allergies, you might have an increased risk for developing chronic sinusitis, because your sinus cavities are constantly inflamed.
Your Treatment Options
Treatment options for sinusitis depend on whether it’s acute or chronic and on its cause. For example, if the infection is caused by bacteria, a typical treatment involves antibiotics. How long you are on the antibiotics depends on the severity of the infection. It’s common for people with a chronic bacterial sinus infection to take the medication for longer than people with an acute case of sinusitis.
But if your sinusitis is due to a viral infection or fungus, antibiotics won’t help at all. The same is true if allergies are triggering your sinus problems. In the case of viral infections, which tend to be acute, your doctor will typically recommend a wait and see approach. Viruses often clear up on their own with time.
If allergies are behind your sinus woes, controlling them can be particularly helpful. Your surgeon might recommend an allergy test to determine what you’re allergic to. Your treatment options for allergies range from avoiding known allergens, taking antihistamines or having allergy shots to help you body learn not to react to the allergens.
In the case of sinusitis caused by physical blockages in the nose, sinus surgery might be your best option. Surgery removes or reduces the polyps, scar tissue or other tissue causing the blockage, allowing you to breathe easier and allowing your nasal cavities to drain more fully. If a deviated septum is playing a part in your chronic sinusitis, septoplasty to straighten it out can be helpful.
ABOUT DR. RUBINSTEIN
Dr. Rubinstein has nearly sixteen years of experience helping patients in the Hudson Valley. A board certified facial plastic surgeon and board certified otolaryngologist, he has extensive knowledge of laser procedures, facial plastic surgery, and nasal and sinus treatments, which allow him to improve aesthetics as well as functionality of the nose and facial features. Dr. Rubinstein received his board certifications through the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and the American Board of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. To learn more about the difference between acute and chronic sinusitis and which treatment option might be best for you, schedule an appointment with Dr. Rubinstein at the Hudson Valley Sinus Center, by calling 845-562-6673.