Chronic sinusitis, also called acute sinusitis, is an acute inflammation of the sinuses and nose (the mucous-filled spaces around the eyes and nose) usually lasting longer than six weeks. Throat mucus, sometimes called phlegm, is an important natural part of the respiratory system’s immune defenses.
It tends to be dry, sticky, and thick and can be described generally as the yellowish, wet, mucus-like material that is often seen in the throat. Throat mucus is primarily produced during times of congestion or when the airway is narrowed by cold, flu-like symptoms.
The mucus helps protect the membranes of the respiratory system from infection by providing a thin film of protection around the lining of the airways. Because it is thin, mucus may be inhaled where it may contain foreign bodies and bacteria that are not ordinarily seen in the respiratory tract.
Mucus in the throat, along with a heavy, green-yellow discharge can also be a symptom of allergic rhinitis, which is more common than many people think. A doctor may test your mucus with a sinus swab, an allergy test, or a blood test to determine if you have a heightened sensitivity to certain substances.
By definition, sufferers have at least two of these symptoms
- Persistent dry or sore throat
- Evidence of discharge, usually of yellowish or greenish material, from the nose
Chronic sinusitis can be caused by fungi, viruses, or a combination of any of these. In mild and moderate cases, it can be caused by bacteria as well. Sinuses and cavities can also contribute to symptoms of these conditions, as can allergies and rhinitis.
Many people experience sinus problems and some have allergic reactions to mucous which can cause the throat-clearing symptoms to worsen. The common cold virus is always present in the atmosphere but often causes cold symptoms only when it has not been eradicated from the air.
If symptoms persist for more than a few days or become very severe, you should seek medical advice. You could have a nasal infection, swollen tonsils, or adenoids that require treatment.
Allergic rhinitis causes the lining of the sinuses to swell and make it difficult for mucus to drain properly through the nasal passages. It often leads to Runny nose, congestion, and coughing.
The exact cause of allergic rhinitis is not known, but some experts believe that it is caused by a reaction to airborne chemicals. These may include pollution, pollen, dust mites, and substances in detergents or paints.
Other symptoms can include post-nasal drip, which may include dripping from the nose, watering of the eyes, stuffy nose, sneezing, itchiness, and nasal congestion.
Some individuals experience post-nasal drip along with a feeling of having a runny nose. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms after the flu or common cold, it is very important to contact your doctor right away so that the problem can be diagnosed and treated.
The excessive production of mucus that occurs during an allergic reaction is often associated with other issues. The excess mucus causes an environment where bacteria can thrive, and infection can occur if the mucus is not flushed out of the throat. The condition can also lead to difficulty breathing and swallowing, as well as hoarseness in the throat.
If you have symptoms of excessive mucus – including
- A persistent cough
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- A feeling of fatigue – don’t hesitate to visit your doctor.
You might be experiencing one of the following conditions
- Allergic rhinitis
- Chronic postnasal drip
You should also inform your doctor if you have any symptoms of lung disease or pneumonia. Also tell your doctor if you are taking any medications, such as aspirin or asthma medication because they can cause inflammation in the upper respiratory tract.
Tell your doctor if you are on any other medications that could interact with your antibiotics. If you are suffering from chronic rhinitis and your doctor has recommended surgery, your physician will have you come in for a few days to monitor your progress.
For many people with chronic sinusitis, the underlying cause is allergies. An allergy may be as simple as someone living in a certain area being affected by dust particles.
In more serious cases, the allergies may involve the allergen’s pollen content or its spores. Chronic sinusitis can also be caused by underlying infectious agents, such as a common cold or the flu.
In this case, doctors often prescribe antibiotics. It is important to note that antibiotics can cause a number of side effects, including
- Thinning of the mucous lining in the nose
While these side effects might be annoying to some, they do not pose a health risk to the individual suffering from chronic sinusitis.
There are some medicines that should be avoided while taking antibiotics to treat chronic rhinitis. These include
- Certain antihistamines
- Any other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory or steroid medications
Also, the nasal sprays such as hydrocortisone and ipratropium may have side effects that can include an increased risk of infection or irritation of the mucous membranes in the nose and throat.
Your health care professional will be able to discuss all risks and the benefits of any treatment options with you. While a number of medications can clear up upper airway cough syndrome, surgical procedures are not always necessary.
If your condition is caused by mucus-producing polyps or other abnormalities, you should consider surgery if conventional medicines do not work for you.
However, if your condition does not seem like it is caused by those types of polyps, then surgery might be unnecessary. As always, talk to your doctor about all of your choices so that you can find a solution that is right for you. You never know which option will be best for you.
The conventional medical treatment for chronic sinusitis is antibiotics, either in pill form or as a nasal spray or oral tablet. Antibiotics are often effective, but the prolonged use of antibiotics can weaken the body’s natural defenses against invading bacteria.
Overuse can cause depletion of the patient’s own protective immunity. Such a result can lead to opportunistic bacterial infection. This is why most doctors recommend the daily use of antibiotics even for conditions such as nasal allergies or colds that don’t involve serious inflammation of the sinuses.
Another way of treating chronic sinusitis, sometimes with success, is called “pleuroscopic surgery.”
This approach involves removing the infected area of the sinuses through a tiny cut made in the membrane between them. The purpose is to remove both the irritants (sinusitis causing bacteria) and the irritant (lining the sinuses).
For example, surgeons might remove nasal polyps or adenoids to get rid of chronic post-nasal drip, which can lead to pain and reduced ability to smell; in the same procedure, they might remove a deviated septum (which causes sinus headaches), or remove excess mucus from the sinuses.
Sometimes, drainage of the nasal cavities (common after an allergic reaction or sinus infection) is the problem. In these cases, the doctor might suggest treatment for both sinusitis and related problems.
A more common approach to chronic sinusitis is to treat the symptoms themselves
There are numerous home remedies that have been successfully used to control symptoms. Some common home remedies include taking aspirin or another nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, like Advil, Motrin, or other brands; taking a decongestant; or spraying hot water on the irritated area.
In some cases, especially when drainage has been noted along the sides of the nose, inhaling steam can relieve the symptoms. These home remedies, however, should not be taken without consulting a doctor.
While antibiotics are a viable option for those suffering from acute sinusitis, they should be used with caution if the individual is experiencing chronic sinusitis.
While antibiotics will effectively kill off the bacteria that are causing the infection, they also weaken the patient’s immune system, leaving them open to a return of infections. The cycle of infections begins again with another bout of acute sinusitis soon after the patient has healed from his or her first infection.
A doctor will perform several tests in order to pinpoint the cause of an acute or chronic sinusitis infection. This includes taking a look at the patient’s nasal discharge, looking to see if it contains a foul odor, testing the sinuses for moisture content, testing the temperature of the inside of the nasal passages, looking to see if antibiotics have been prescribed.
If one or more of these tests indicates that there is in fact an infection present, treatment will most likely include an antibiotic. More severe cases may warrant additional tests and possibly a referral to a sinus specialist, where treatment may involve surgery or a different type of medication.
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