While acute sinusitis causes mucus build-up in your nasal passages, it usually clears up on its own. However, frequent and recurring sinus infections can be more painful and troublesome. As many as 13 percent of Americans suffer from recurring sinus infections. If inflammation lasts more than four to eight weeks or longer, then you may have chronic sinusitis, which usually requires antibiotics to treat the infection.
Frequent sinus infections occur when bacteria forms in the sinus cavities. If you have a suppressed immune system caused by other diseases or you frequently develop colds, you are more prone to frequent sinus infections. Also, if you take medicine that suppresses your immune systems, you are also more prone because your body can not naturally kill the harmful bacteria. Sinus infections and colds are not the same thing because a sinus infection is a bacterial infection, and a cold is a viral infection. However, a cold greatly increases your risk for sinus swelling and infection.
The environment in which you live and work can be a cause of your sinus troubles. If you have extreme outdoor and indoor allergies, you are more likely to develop sinus infections. Your body releases histamine in response to allergies, and this causes sinus inflammation. This inflammation can become persistent, especially if you do not take allergy medication or take care to avoid allergic triggers. If you smoke or are around second-hand smoke, then you are exposing yourself to more allergens and increasing your risk for a sinus infection.
Nasal abnormalities can also increase your risk for recurring sinus infections. This is because the shape of your nasal passage can make it difficult for fluids to drain, causing buildup and bacterial growth. Those with allergies and asthma are more likely to have nasal abnormalities. Nasal polyps, small bumps inside your nose, can also cause sinus infections.
Diagnosis and Prevention
Your doctor can determine if you have chronic sinus infections by a few simple procedures during an exam. You may even have allergy testing, nasal endoscopy, oral x-rays, or a CT scan. Drinking extra fluids, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, drinking hot liquids, and using vapor or steam therapies can clear out your sinus cavities, limiting the potential for bacteria. The more fluids you consume, the thinner your mucous secretions will be. Doing this while taking anti-histamines and decongestants can keep your sinuses from being inflamed and irritated. It is also important to get plenty of rest to avoid having a recurring sinus infection.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Chronic Sinusitis-Fast Facts
Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia-US National Library of Medicine