You’re sneezing, you’re congested, and your nose, cheeks and forehead hurt. Sometimes, nasal problems are more than just a common cold. In some cases, the problem is chronic sinusitis. Sinusitis, which can be either acute or chronic, affects many people, around 37 million in the US, or about one out of every eight people.
If you’ve got a cold that doesn’t seem to quit, it may be sinusitis. Here are a few common symptoms of the condition and ways to tell if it’s what you’re dealing with.
Primary Symptoms of Chronic Sinusitis
Although the exact symptoms of chronic sinusitis a person deals with might vary from one patient to the next, generally people with the condition experience at least two of four primary symptoms.
One common primary symptom of chronic sinusitis is a thick nasal discharge. Some people have a constant runny nose, others might have post-nasal drip, meaning the mucous drains down the back of their throat. Often, the discharge is a green or yellow color, not clear.
Congestion is another major symptom of chronic sinusitis. People with the condition often feel stuffed up and have difficulty breathing through their nose. Since sinusitis is caused by an inflammation of the sinus cavities behind the forehead, cheeks and nose, it can feel as though something is physically blocking them, making it a challenge to breathe.
Pain is a third primary symptom of the condition. The pain can be in the area, near the nose, eyes and forehead, or it can radiate to other parts of the face. Some people develop what feels like a toothache, for example.
A decreased sense of smell and taste is another common symptom of the condition, particularly in adults.
Secondary Symptoms of Chronic Sinusitis
Along with the primary symptoms needed for an accurate diagnosis of chronic sinusitis, the condition can be responsible for a range of secondary symptoms. Not everyone with sinus problems develops these symptoms, though. Some people might have none, others might have one or two, and still others might have all of them.
A cough that gets worse at night is a common secondary symptom of the condition, for example. In fact, a chronic cough, which lasts for more than 21 days, is a fairly typical sign of sinusitis, although people often don’t link the two together. Usually, the sinusitis is responsible for a cough, it is because of the nasal discharge that seeps down the back of the throat, causing irritation. That irritation can also cause a sore, scratchy throat in some patients.
Since the condition makes it difficult to breathe and can make it more likely for a person to cough through the night, another symptom is a loss of sleep and fatigue. The fatigue can make a person irritable and cranky too.
Along with facial pain and dental pain, chronic sinusitis can also cause ear pain and jaw pain.
How to Know If It’s Chronic Sinusitis
Of course, it’s possible to have symptoms such as a cough, runny nose and congestion, and not actually have chronic sinusitis. The key way to differentiate between acute sinusitis and chronic is to look at how long symptoms last. Typically, symptoms last for no more than four weeks in the case of acute sinusitis. When the condition is chronic, symptoms last for at least eight weeks, but often for longer than 12.
If you do have any of the symptoms described above for several weeks, it can be worth it to schedule an appointment with a sinus doctor to get an official diagnosis. There are several methods a doctor can use to determine if you have a problem in the sinuses. The simplest method involves feeling your face, especially near the nose and forehead, for tenderness. He might look up inside your nose to see if there is inflammation in the sinus cavity.
In some cases, the doctor might perform a rhinoscopy, which involves threading a small camera up into the nose, to get a good look at the sinuses. The scope allows the doctor to clearly see if there is inflammation or blockage in the cavities.
Since both acute and chronic forms of sinusitis can be caused by a bacteria or fungus, in some instances a surgeon may take a culture from the sinus cavity to determine what is causing the issue. Taking a culture and determining for sure if the sinusitis is caused by bacteria, fungus or simple irritation, helps you and your surgeon decide on the best course of treatment.
Depending on the cause of your symptoms, treatment can range from a prolonged course of antibiotics to clear up a severe bacterial infection, or sinus surgery to reduce inflammation and help the sinuses drain more easily.
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 combining sinus surgery, septoplasty and rhinoplasty, schedule an appointment with Dr. Rubinstein at the Hudson Valley Sinus Center by calling 845-562-6673.