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more articles by Ruparelia, Ashu H. , MD  |  author's bio

Sinusitis: A Problem for All Ages

Sinusitis: A Problem for All Ages

Special to the Journal  By Ashu Ruparelia, MD

 

Sinusitis plagues many people in this part of the county. It is the fourth most common reason to be absent from work and it affects adults and children.

 

What is sinusitis?

 

Sinusitis is a clinical diagnosis based on symptoms, which include nasal congestion, discharge, or post-nasal drip; plugged or painful ears; loss of sense of smell; headaches and facial pain; and bad breath. Most sinusitis infections are caused by viruses.

 

The frequency of sinus infections has increased in recent years. We believe this is occurring because our noses filter the atmosphere and the growing levels of air pollution have caused inflammatory changes in the lining of the nose and sinuses, which makes us more susceptible to viral infections. We are also seeing more seasonal and year-round allergies today than in years past. Allergic reactions trigger the body’s autoimmune response, which increases inflammation in the nose and sinuses and can result in frequently recurring sinus problems.

 

Will the doctor give me antibiotics to cure my sinusitis?

 

People suffering with sinus infections see their doctors hoping for immediate relief from painful, distressing symptoms. They often request a prescription for antibiotics from the doctor to knock out the infection. The majority of sinusitis is viral, however, and antibiotics do not cure viral infections. Unfortunately, prescribing antibiotics for viral sinus infections has become common practice and this practice has contributed to the serious problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

 

As an ear, nose, and throat specialist, I see many patients who have been referred to me for recurring facial pain and headaches, who have been on antibiotics and who are not getting well. In these cases we explore other causes for the pain, including tension or migraine headaches, atypical facial neuralgia, and the phenomena known as rebound headaches that can occur when someone is taking multiple over-the-counter medications. 

 

What can I do to relieve my symptoms?

 

There are a number of steps you can take to relieve your symptoms while giving your body time to overcome the virus and resolve the problem on its own. One of the most important things you can do is rest. Try Tylenol or ibuprofen to relieve pain. Use an over-the-counter saline nasal spray to keep the lining of the nose and sinuses moist, which helps to reduce inflammation. Run a humidifier in your home. Drink plenty of water. Take an oral decongestant for two or three days. If you don’t feel better in two weeks, check with your doctor.

 

I also recommend nasal douching with salt or bicarbonate in a saline mixture. Rinsing your nose and sinuses in this manner enhances mucus clearance. If you are prone to sinus infections, it’s a good idea to do this regularly.

 

What if my sinusitis persists?

 

If you have chronic sinusitis, you and your doctor may consider prophylactic measures, including a CT scan to determine if there is an obstruction in the natural opening of the sinuses that warrants surgery. This minimally invasive, same-day surgery is called endoscopic sinus surgery and is performed through the nostrils, so there is no cutting through the skin. Once the blockage is removed, mucus can drain properly and this relieves troubling symptoms. Three board-certified ENT specialists on staff at Cayuga Medical Center perform this surgery.

 

Dr. Ruparelia is board certified in Ear, Nose, Throat and Head and Neck Surgery. He is on staff at Cayuga Medical Center and in practice with Cayuga Ear, Nose, Throat – Head and Neck Surgery Associates. He can be seen in the Ithaca office at Ascot Place or in Cortland at 1122 Commons Avenue.

 

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