Sinusitis can cause significant pain and suffering. Treatments range from very conservatively treating symptoms to all the way up through surgery. Optimizing your environment can be a great place to start when improving sinus function.
The main goals of treating sinusitis can be listed as follows:
- Easing pain and pressure
- Decreasing or eliminating infection
- Improving drainage of mucus
- Decreasing inflammation and swelling of the sinuses
- Avoiding the presence of scar tissue, and circumventing long-lasting damage to the delicate tissues in both the nose and sinuses
- Preventing additional sinus infections in the future
The types of treatment for sinusitis can be classified into three major categories: Natural and Home Remedies, Prescription and OTC Medications, and Surgical Procedures.
Option 1 – Natural and Home Remedies
At the onset of sinus symptoms, there are conservative treatments that may make you feel better and could prevent your symptoms from progressing. These remedies are great for those who have a mild case of sinusitis, but can also decrease symptoms if you have more severe sinusitis symptoms or even chronic sinusitis.
The most efficient home remedies may be broken down into the following groups:
- FLUIDS -Staying hydrated is key to maintaining a proper liquid level in the body and ensuring that your nasal passages and mucus membranes remain moist. Accomplish this by drinking plenty of fluids, such as water, and pairing it with an equal amount of rest to assist with the pain and general discomfort experienced with sinusitis. Carrying around a bottle of water at all times is recommended.
- REST -Your body is trying to heal so give it as much help as you can. Don’t overexert yourself, don’t exercise, and try to avoid unnecesary activity or travel. Sleep when you can and when you are sleeping you should keep your head elevated to limit extra congestion inside your nose.
- ENVIRONMENTAL PRECAUTIONS -Keeping your environment clean can prevent additional debris from getting inside your nose while your sinuses are trying to heal. Limiting exposure to dust, pollen or other known allergens may prevent you from progressing to a sinus infection.
- SINUS-FRIENDLY FOODS -A good diet can help heal your sinuses faster than eating the wrong types of food -like greasy food that is high in fat and cholesterol content. Instead, consider eating a bowl of chicken soup to ease the sinus pains of congestion. Also, foods that contain horseradish sauce or habanero peppers may help clear the sinuses.
- SALINE RINSES -Rinsing your nasal passages with normal saline can flush debris and clear your sinuses. This can be repeated several times per day and studies have shown it to be effective.
- SINUS-FRIENDLY DRINKS -Just as different types of foods act to help rid your sinuses of bacteria and infection, sometimes beverages and hydration can help as well. Beverages like hot ginger tea, sugar-free fruit juices, and herbal tea with honey and lemon all work to promote healthy sinuses.
- STEAM INHALATION -Another very effective home remedy is to inhale steam between two and five times each day. This remedy is easy to do and requires only the items you have available in your house. You can run your shower or boil water on the stove. Inhale continuously, taking deep breaths, for 10-15 minutes. The effect is essentially akin to a sauna. Note that you can also get the same effect from using a steam humidifier.
Option 2 – Prescription & Over-the-Counter Medications
Acute vs. Chronic Sinusitis
Due to the differences in the cause of acute sinusitis versus chronic sinusitis, there are usually different treatment methods.
Acute Sinusitis Treatment
Typically, for acute sinusitis, the standard treatment plan is two-fold. First, your doctor will begin “support treatment” via the use of saline nasal irrigation, decongestants, antihistamines, and expectorants at the onset of symptoms. For progressively worsening cases of sinusitis lasting over 7 tO 10 days, antibiotics with or without oral steroids may be prescribed.
Chronic Sinusitis Treatment
Patients who have been diagnosed with chronic sinusitis usually follow a different treatment plan. Antibiotics may be prescribed as an attempt to eliminate the infection but there are currently no antibiotics approved to eliminate chronic sinusitis. Treatment is instead directed towards decreasing inflammation in the sinuses.
Combinations of corticosteroid nasal sprays oral steroids can decrease inflammation inside the nose and sinuses. Saline nasal irrigation can clear thick mucus in the nose and improve nasal mucosa function. Eliminating or limiting causes of sinus inflammation are important as well. Reducing exposure to allergen and physical irritants like dust and soot can improve sinus function. Alternatively, if you fail to improve with conservative treatment, your doctor may discuss with you the possibility of surgery. This is quite common for many patients who suffer from chronic sinusitis, in that they do not respond to normal treatment plans, and must take further action in order to improve their quality of life.
Over-the-counter medications can be an effective method to reduce symptoms for those suffering from sinusitis. Medications may also prevent a cold or allergies from progressing to a sinus infection. Directing medications at the specific symptoms can help to make you more comfortable as well.
There are several different types of prescription and OTC medicines that can be used to treat your sinusitis:
- ANTIBIOTICS -the purpose of which is to kill bacteria [i.e. amoxicillin/clavulanic acid], (Prescription)
- DECONGESTANTS -the purpose of which is to reduce the swelling of the mucus membranes [i.e.pseudoephedrine]
- ANALGESICS -the purpose of which is to relieve pain [i.e.acetaminophen or ibuprofen]
- MUCOLYTICS -the purpose of which is to thin the mucus [i.e.guaifenesin]
- NASAL CORTICOSTEROIDS -the purpose of which is to reduce inflammation in the nasal passages [i.e. beclomethasone, fluticasone, mometazone or a multiple other nasal steroid sprays]
- ORAL CORTICOSTEROIDS -also reduce inflammation in the nasal passages [i.e. prednisone or a medrol dose pack] (Prescription)
Note, your doctor may require that you take only one of the medications listed above, or could require that you combine a variety of these medicines to decrease symptoms or limit your sinus infection.
Additionally, it is also important to mention that it’s possible to develop what is referred to as a“double sickening” during treatment of either acute or chronic sinusitis. This condition is described as an initial feeling of recovery upon taking the first of your antibiotics or other treatments, however, the symptoms may soon reappear, whereby the patient could require additional medications in order to fully recover.
Note: It is important that your doctor conduct a thorough history and evaluation in order to discover any additional, pre-existing conditions that may be aggravating or contributing to your chronic sinusitis. For example, allergies, asthma, smoking, immune problems, gastroesophageal reflux disorder, and nasal passage structural problems are just a few of the conditions that may exacerbate chronic sinusitis. Treatment of these conditions with medical and environmental management may also improve your sinusitis.
Option 3 – Surgery
Although many of us see our symptoms improve or resolve after conservative or medical treatment, some may have persistent inflammation and infection. In fact, some people’s sinusitis may only be cured through surgery. This option is usually for those who experience recurrent episodes of acute sinusitis or chronic rhinosinusitis. The overall objective of surgery is to treat sinusitis by improving sinus drainage, removing infected mucus and tissue, and reducing the blockages in the sinuses and nasal cavities.
There are several procedures that doctors may perform in order to treat chronic sinusitis. The purpose of surgical treatment is the following:
- Expand the normal, ordinary openings of the sinuses
- Open swollen and blocked sinus cells
- Remove sites of infection and pus within the sinuses
- Rid the nasal cavity of nasal polyps and polypoid tissue
- Repair structural abnormalities inside the nose (i.e. deviated septum)
- Allow the nasal mucosa to heal and be able to function in a normal and healthy manner
After surgery and a proper recovery period, many individuals feel as if their sinus problems are improved greatly. However, chronic sinusitis is called “chronic” for a reason, and there is a possibility that the same problems could potentially reveal themselves once more, upon which you are encouraged to consult with your doctor immediately.