Andrea Bernhard, MD
FAMILY MEDICINE

Dr. Bernhard became a physician in order to make a positive difference in people’s lives. Her goal is to treat every patient with respect and dignity, and to deliver the highest quality care. Dr. Bernhard has lived in Hawaii for 10 years, and even completed her residency at the University of Hawaii. In her own words, “I get to care for wonderful people in one of the most beautiful places in the world.”

<< URGENT CARE

Acute Sinusitis

Acute sinusitis is a sinus infection. There is inflammation or swelling of the tissue lining of the sinuses. The most commonly affected is the cheekbone (maxillary) sinuses. It usually heals on its own without treatment. However, there are various treatments available.

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These treatments help to ease unpleasant symptoms. These symptoms include, for example, sinus pressure and headache. Additionally, antibiotic medicines may be needed for faster relief. Complications are uncommon. However, it might lead to persistent (chronic) sinusitis. In addition, the infection may also spread to nearby structures.

In brief, sinusitis develops over 2-3 days and lasts for up to a week’s time. Acute sinusitis lasts from 4-30 days. It occurs only once or twice in a person’s lifetime. Similarly to common colds, the immune system clears the infection on its own. Symptoms stop within 2-3 weeks.

Common cause

Acute sinusitis develops after a bout of cold or flu. A virus causes colds and flu and it spreads to the sinuses. A bacterial sinus infection is harder to treat and is persistent. Additionally, people suffering from asthma face sinusitis more often.

Other causes

Often, the infection spreads to a cheekbone (maxillary) sinus. It spreads from an infected tooth. Nasal allergy (allergic rhinitis) is another cause. It causes swelling of the tissues on the inside lining of the nose. As a result, blocking the sinus drainage channels. Other causes of a blockage to the sinus drainage channels can be due to over growths. These are nasal polyps. Facial injury or surgery are also causes of blockage. A poor immune system, inflammatory disorders such as sarcoidosis and excessive smoking makes a person prone to suffer from sinusitis.

Common symptoms

One with sinusitis experience many symptoms.  To include, pain and tenderness occurs over the infected sinus and the jaws. Also, a stuffy or blocked nose may happen too. Additionally, one may develop a runny nose with mild fever. Other common symptoms include sinus pressure and headache, bad breath, and aches in the jaw. Feeling of pressure in the ears and fatigue are also common symptoms. The temperament turns irritable with bodily discomfort.

Treatment

Acute sinusitis does not require medication. It typically clears up on its own. The body’s natural defense system takes about 7 to 10 days to fight the infection. If the symptoms persist for more than 10 days, consult a doctor for a high-dose steroid nose spray. Antibiotics should not be used for at least the first 10 days. Antibiotics are ineffective on viral infections.

The symptoms, however, can be eased in many ways.

  • Firstly, painkillers can ease facial pain. This also brings down any mild fever. Strong painkillers with codeine can be used for a short while.
  • Next, decongestant nasal sprays or nasal drops help in clearing a blocked nose. Saline nasal drops may help to relieve congestion and blockage in the nose. However, do not use them for more than 5-7 days.
  • Also, drink plenty of water and fluids (about 2 liters per day) to help ease the symptoms.
  • Additionally, warm face towels kept over the sinuses helps to ease the pain.
  • Lastly, steam inhalation is another traditional remedy. However, one must be careful to avoid burn injuries. Some people get clear nasal passages after a hot shower.

When to consult a doctor

If symptoms become severe or do not ease within 10 days, consult a doctor. The symptoms include severe pain and/or swelling at the front of your head. In addition, other symptoms include swelling around the eyes, swelling of the face, or bloodstained discharge coming from the nose. To note, it also includes sinus pressure and headache. The symptoms show an underlying problem. Thus, the doctor will diagnose post encounter.

Acute sinusitis, if caused by a virus, is contagious. Sneezing can send virus-containing droplets into the air. As a result, a person nearby can breathe this in. Thus, infection will ensue. Children are more prone to infection than adults. Consult with your doctor if your child with sinusitis experiences swelling or redness of an eyelid.

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