If you’ve ever suffered through a sinus infection, you may be haunted by memories of the pain and discomfort you felt. Fewer things bring such misery, with the possible exception of endless campaign ads every election season.
Most sinus infections are acute, meaning they are of short duration (7-10 days on average) and symptoms can be managed with over-the-counter drugs. But an unlucky 37 million Americans in Mechanicsburg and across the country experience chronic sinus infections. Known medically as sinusitis, these outbreaks persist longer than eight weeks, may occur repeatedly, and do not respond to medications.
If you suffer from chronic sinusitis, your best option may be sinus surgery.
Sinusitis: Causes and Symptoms
When your sinuses are functioning properly, mucus drains into the nasal passages. Infection causes swelling and blockage, resulting in uncomfortable symptoms including facial pain and pressure, nasal congestion, cough, sore throat, headache, fever, fatigue, bad breath, and a loss of smell and taste. Think of it as a cold on steroids!
Sinus infections often follow colds and allergies, but may also be caused by environmental pollutants, nasal polyps, deviated septum, trauma, immune system disorders, and tumors.
Over-the-counter saline nasal sprays, antihistamines and decongestants, and pain medication may help reduce the severity of symptoms for those with acute sinusitis. But for those with chronic infections, sinus surgery is usually the only effective long-term treatment.
If the idea of sinus surgery makes you squeamish, consider this: it’s a minor price to pay for relief from persistent and painful symptoms. And these procedures are much more common today. Medical advances have resulted in minimally-invasive surgeries that carry little risk of complication.
The type of surgery you have depends on the severity and persistence of your infections. You may undergo one of the following:
- Functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS). This utilizes a nasal endoscope to open the sinus pathways. A thin tube with a camera attached is inserted through the nose and obstructive tissue is removed. In most cases, the surgery is completed entirely through the nostrils, so there are no scars to worry about. The procedure has been in use since the 1950s and is considered extremely safe. Swelling is limited, and discomfort is mild.
- Image-guided surgery. This surgery utilizes a 3-D mapping system created from CT scans and infrared signals to provide information about the position of surgical instruments, which allows the surgeon to accurately guide instruments through complex sinus passages. Image-guided surgery is most commonly recommended for those with chronic sinusitis or when previous sinus surgery has changed the anatomy of the sinuses.
- Balloon sinuplasty. In this surgical procedure, a balloon catheter is inserted through the nostrils into the sinus passages, where it is gently inflated, expanding the sinus cavity and allowing fluids to drain. Debris is flushed from the sinuses before the balloon is deflated and removed. This operation is the least invasive of all, requiring no cutting or removal of bone or tissue. It offers immediate relief and results in a fast recovery. Most patients are able to resume normal activities in a day or two.
If you’re suffering from frequent sinus infections that aren’t responding to medical treatment, contact your Mechanicsburg ear, nose, and throat specialist today. They’ll be able to recommend a surgical procedure that should bring you long-term relief.