Recognizing and treating sinus problems

November 29, 2000

ROCHESTER, MINN. -- An estimated 35 million Americans are plagued with sinusitis every year. Sinusitis, an inflammation or infection of the sinuses, can start out like a cold, with a scratchy throat, stuffy nose and cough, but it may last longer and be impervious to over-the-counter remedies. The December issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource offers a guide to the symptoms and treatments for this common and irritating disease.

Sinuses are hollow air spaces in the skull and bones of the face. They lie above and along the nose, around the eyes and across the cheekbones. All of these spaces can become clogged by mucus from the nose, so anything that causes your nose to swell or get congested can affect your sinuses the same way.

Typical symptoms of sinusitis may include pressure and pain in the upper portion of the face; headache; swelling of the eyelids; scratchy throat; congestion or a stuffy nose; thick, yellow-green nasal discharge; low-grade fever and bad breath that isn't related to dental problems. More than two-thirds of sinusitis cases are acute, which means they are only temporary and should be cured by a course of antibiotics.

The remaining one-third of cases are chronic. The symptoms never seem to go away, even with medical treatment. Chronic sinusitis usually has an underlying cause such as persistent allergies, a fungus.

Treatments for sinusitis vary depending on the cause. Your physician may recommend a vaporizer, warm compresses, and ibuprofen or nasal steroids to relieve symptoms. Antibiotics and allergy treatments can treat the cause of the infection. Surgery may be required in some chronic cases.
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Shelly Plutowski
507-284-2417 (days)
507-284-2511 (evenings)
e-mail: newsbureau@mayo.edu

Mayo Clinic

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