Acute vs. Chronic Sinusitis

Why do people have sinuses? Even among the experts, the jury's out, although there are some theories out there. Some say these hollow cavities in your face help to humidify the air you inhale, while others claim they help enhance your voice.

You might feel like they exist only to get you sick, and you wouldn't be alone. About 30 million Americans are diagnosed with sinusitis — infection of the sinuses — each year, while 15% of the population say they deal with chronic sinusitis, although doctors aren’t so sure if the true number is that high.

Regardless, the main difference between these two types of sinusitis is their duration. Chronic sinusitis lasts for more than 12 weeks, while acute sinusitis lasts far less, usually not even half as long. With treatment, you can shorten the length of time you're sick and even alleviate the symptoms.

Here at Riviera Allergy Medical Center, we treat both types of sinusitis in our patients every day. We make sure you know exactly what's causing your suffering and what you need to do to treat it. Failure to address sinus issues early on can make them last longer or even turn them into bigger health problems.

What is acute sinusitis?

Acute sinusitis usually occurs due to a virus or bacteria infecting the sinuses, causing inflammation and resulting in fluid buildup in your nasal passages.

You likely feel discharge coming from your nose or even down the back of your throat, making it hard to breathe through your nose. Your face might become tender, possibly leading to a headache that gets worse when you move your head around.

Usually, acute sinusitis develops from the common cold and resolves on its own. Come to see us if your symptoms: are getting worse over the course of a few days; if you have a persistent fever; or if you have a history of recurring sinusitis. You might have some other condition, like a deviated septum, that is making you more vulnerable.

When it gets worse, acute sinusitis can lead to pressure in the ears, jaw pain, cough, fatigue, and even fever. Further complications are rare, but acute sinusitis can turn into chronic sinusitis, other infections and even the loss of sight or smell.

An antibiotic might be prescribed if the cause is a bacterial infection.

What is chronic sinusitis?

If you’re still dealing with sinusitis some three months after it set in, you likely have chronic sinusitis.

To diagnose this and check your health for any other conditions, Riviera Allergy Medical Center can perform a couple of tests, including checking out your immune system and/or testing for allergies. You might also need a sinus CT scan, to assess the severity of your sinusitis and rule out anatomical abnormalities, such as nasal septum deviation or polyps

Treatment of chronic sinusitis focuses on alleviating its daily symptoms in the long term. Our main approach is to try to reduce the inflammation. Intranasal steroids have proven effective and fast-acting, but occasionally, short courses of oral steroids or biologics might be indicated.

Saline rinses are often used to help flush out some of the allergens and pathogens and can be used in acute sinusitis as well, especially if you’re experiencing severe congestion. Make sure you take lifestyle factors into account as well: Avoid smoking, and try to maintain moist air with nasal saline spray,  especially at night.

If these methods don’t work and chronic sinusitis persists, we discuss other treatment options with you. These usually occur in patients with nasal polyps, a deviated septum or other sinus structural issues.

A first of its kind biologic treatment is available to patients with chronic sinusitis. This treatment can benefit patients with nasal polyps or prolonged sinus inflammation that is inadequately controlled with intranasal steroid medication. The medication works from within, targeting chemicals involved in the immune response. 

Treatment with biologic medication significantly reduces inflammation and nasal polyp size, and it reduces the need for nasal polyp surgery. Patients who take biologic medication report an improved sense of smell, a reduction in symptoms, and improved quality of life. 

We can diagnose and customized treat your sinusitis, whether it's acute or chronic. Call us today at Riviera Allergy Medical Center to make an appointment, or you can request your consultation using our online booking feature. You can also send us a message here on our website

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