Often, sinusitis starts out as your average, common cold or a viral upper respiratory infection. Your sinuses become inflamed, your nasal passages are blocked with mucus (let's not forget about the postnasal drip), and the headache and facial pain may seem insufferable. You may have a sore throat and a cough. When you have a cold, you usually begin to feel better in about a week, give or take a few days, but when sinusitis begins to take hold, symptoms begin to get worse, not better. You may begin to run a fever, the facial pressure and tenderness begin to worsen, and you may even find that your ears or teeth ache. What's happening is, instead of your sinuses draining, they've become blocked with thick mucus, allowing bacteria such as Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae and Moraxella catarrhalis to flourish and inflame the lining of the sinuses. This may be the onset of sinusitis.
It's not only bacteria that can trigger sinus inflammation and sinusitis. Conditions including a deviated nasal septum, nasal polyps, cystic fibrosis or a weakened immune system can increase the odds of developing acute sinusitis, as well. And individuals who suffer from allergies have a greater susceptibility, too, especially those who endure hay fever or an allergy to molds or fungus. Smoking and altitude changes may also increase a person's risk.
Because a cold is caused by a virus, there is no better treatment than to get plenty of rest, wait it out and maybe try over-the-counter decongestants or other cold symptom relief. But when it comes to acute sinusitis, treatment can be a little different. Next we'll look at a prescription for sinus health, from over-the-counter medicines to alternative remedies. But first let's discuss how your doctor may diagnose your sinusitis.