Signs and Symptoms of Sinus Infections

Signs and Symptoms of Sinus Infections

Sinus infections, also known as sinusitis, can cause a range of uncomfortable symptoms that interfere with daily life. Sinus infections occur when the tissue lining the sinuses becomes inflamed or infected. This can be triggered by viruses, bacteria, fungi, or allergies. The sinuses are air-filled cavities located in the forehead, cheeks, and around the eyes. When these cavities become blocked and filled with fluid, it creates an ideal environment for germs to grow, leading to an infection.

Common Signs and Symptoms

  1. Sinus Pain and Pressure
    One of the most notable symptoms of a sinus infection is sinus pain. This pain is often felt in the forehead, around the eyes, nose, and cheeks. It can be described as a deep, constant ache that worsens when you bend over or move your head suddenly. Sinus pain treatment often focuses on alleviating this discomfort through various methods.
  2. Nasal Congestion
    Nasal congestion is another common symptom of sinus infections. It occurs when the sinuses become swollen and mucus accumulates, making it difficult to breathe through the nose. This congestion can also lead to a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ears.
  3. Runny Nose and Postnasal Drip
    A runny nose is typical during a sinus infection, with mucus that may be thick and yellow or green. Postnasal drip, where mucus drains down the back of the throat, can cause a sore throat and persistent coughing, especially at night.
  4. Headache
    Headaches are a frequent companion of sinus infections. They often result from the pressure and swelling in the sinuses. These headaches can be quite severe and are typically worse in the morning or when you bend over.
  5. Sore Throat and Hoarseness
    Postnasal drip can irritate the throat, leading to a sore throat and hoarseness. Constant clearing of the throat or coughing to remove mucus can further aggravate this symptom.
  6. Fatigue
    Feeling unusually tired or fatigued is a common symptom of sinus infections. The body's efforts to fight off the infection, combined with poor sleep due to symptoms like nasal congestion and coughing, can leave you feeling drained.
  7. Fever
    In some cases, sinus infections can cause a fever. This is more common with bacterial infections and is a sign that the body is fighting off the infection. A mild fever can often be managed with over-the-counter medications as part of sinus pain treatment.
  8. Bad Breath
    Bad breath, or halitosis, can occur due to the presence of mucus and bacteria in the nasal passages and throat. Regular oral hygiene and staying hydrated can help mitigate this symptom.
  9. Reduced Sense of Smell and Taste
    A sinus infection can affect your sense of smell and taste. Nasal congestion and inflammation can block the olfactory receptors, temporarily reducing these senses.

Causes and Risk Factors

Sinus infections can be caused by various factors, including:

  • Viral Infections: The most common cause of sinus infections is a viral infection, such as the common cold. Viral sinusitis usually resolves on its own within a week or two.
  • Bacterial Infections: When a sinus infection persists longer than a week or becomes more severe, it may be bacterial. Bacterial sinusitis often requires antibiotic treatment.
  • Allergies: Allergies can trigger sinus infections by causing inflammation and swelling in the sinuses. Managing allergies is a key part of sinus pain treatment for those prone to allergic sinusitis.
  • Nasal Polyps: These are noncancerous growths in the nasal passages that can block the sinuses and lead to infections.
  • Deviated Septum: A deviated septum can obstruct the sinuses, making it easier for infections to occur.
  • Environmental Factors: Exposure to pollutants, smoke, and dry air can irritate the sinuses and increase the risk of infection.

When to See a Doctor

It's important to seek medical advice if you experience:

  • Symptoms that last longer than ten days
  • Severe pain or swelling in the face
  • A high fever
  • Persistent headache or visual disturbances
  • Symptoms that worsen after initial improvement

If you're experiencing persistent or severe symptoms of a sinus infection, it’s crucial to seek medical advice. Consulting with an ENT specialist can help determine the cause of your symptoms and guide you towards effective sinus pain treatment. Here are some diagnostic procedures used to evaluate sinus infections:

Nasal Rigid / Flexible Endoscopy

The nostrils are quite small, and it’s difficult to see beyond the front part of the nasal cavity using traditional methods. A small, sterile rigid or flexible endoscope allows a detailed inspection of the entire nasal cavity, sinus openings, nasopharynx, and Eustachian tube openings.

  • How is it treated?

A local anaesthetic and decongestant spray (Cophenylcaine) is used to numb and shrink the nasal lining. An endoscope is then gently introduced into the nostril for examination, which takes less than five minutes and is not unpleasant.

Nasal Swab for Microscopy and Culture

Bacterial or fungal infections require specific antimicrobial treatments. A nasal swab can identify the infective organism causing acute infections, which produce thick, yellow-green pus.

  • How is it treated?

A sterile dilator speculum is inserted into the nostril, followed by a fine sterile cotton bud probe to collect a sample of the fluid or pus. This sample is sent to a lab for microscopic examination and culture to determine the specific antimicrobial agent needed.

Nasal Fluid for Beta 2 Transferrin Assay

Defects in the brain covering (dura) can result in brain fluid (CSF) leaking into the sinuses or nasal cavity, which may lead to serious complications like meningitis if untreated. Identifying CSF rhinorrhoea early is crucial for surgical intervention.

  • How is it treated?

The patient leans forward to allow brain fluid to drip from the nose into a sterile container. This fluid is then sent to a specialised lab for analysis to confirm the presence of CSF.

Skin Prick Allergy Test

Allergies are a common cause of rhinitis, which leads to persistent nasal congestion, itching, and sneezing. Identifying specific allergens can help manage symptoms effectively.

  • How is it treated?

Allergens are introduced into the skin (usually the forearm) in tiny amounts. The test area is marked, and drops of allergen solutions are applied. The skin is then pricked through each drop with a sterile lancet. Results are read after 15 minutes based on the presence and size of redness and lumps.

RAST Allergy Blood Test

This test measures the amount of Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies in the blood, which indicates sensitivity to specific allergens. It helps confirm allergic reactions and their severity.

  • How is it treated?

A blood sample is drawn and sent to the lab for analysis. Results, available within a few days, show the level of sensitivity to various substances, graded from 0 to 6.

CT Scan

CT scans provide detailed images of both bone and soft tissue, making them ideal for assessing sinus problems. They offer more comprehensive diagnostic information compared to conventional sinus X-rays.

  • How is it treated?

The procedure involves lying still with your head in an open capsule, resembling a medical "hair dryer," for about 20 minutes. It is completely painless and provides crucial diagnostic information.

If you suspect a sinus infection or are experiencing severe symptoms, don’t hesitate to consult an ENT specialist. Contact us or book an appointment with us to talk to a specialist.

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The Harley Street ENT clinic in London can provide all of the care that you need when you have an ear, nose, throat or balance problem. We ensure that you can get all of the right tests, treatments and advice in one convenient place.