Possible CausesSinusitis is an infection and swelling of the sinuses. Infection is most often caused by a virus, bacteria or fungus. Most commonly sinusitis occurs after a viral upper respiratory infection or common cold. The membranes lining the sinuses swell and are unable to drain. Sinusitis can also be caused by a dental infection in the upper jaw. In chronic cases of sinusitis, low immune function, seasonal allergies and food allergies also need to be considered as possible causes.
Signs and SymptomsOften the first symptom of sinusitis is pain and pressure over the cheekbones or above the eyes. A history of a common cold, dental infection or seasonal allergies may also be present. People also experience nasal congestion, thick nasal discharge, fever, chills and headaches. If the infection is chronic, the symptoms may be milder and may include bad breath, a nonproductive cough and post-nasal drip. If vision starts to change, swelling around the eyes or if there is pain or difficulty moving the eyes, emergency assistance should be sought immediately.
Sometimes X-rays or a CT scan of the sinuses proves useful in diagnosing chronic cases of sinusitis. Cultures taken from the sinuses are a sure way to identify the type of infection, but usually are not necessary. History along with pain over sinuses and decreased transillumination over sinuses is usually sufficient for diagnosing this condition.
Treatments for Sinusitis
General western medical treatment includes drinking plenty of water, steam inhalation 20-30 minutes 3 times a day, saline nasal irrigation, elevate head of bed to facilitate sinuses draining, avoid smoke fumes, caffeine and alcohol. Antibiotics are given when the infection appears to be bacterial in origin and has lasted more than 5-10 days. On occasion, surgery is used to remove blockages in the sinus cavities that prevent proper drainage.
In addition to the general medical recommendations, a natural therapist may use supplements or herbs to help strengthen the immune system, eliminate food allergies to decrease amount of drainage and use local applications of heat to relieve pain. Some supplements to boost immune function include Vitamin C, Bioflavonoids, Vitamin A, Beta-carotene and Zinc. Botanical medicines include Echinacea, Goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis) and Osha (Ligusticum porterii). Both Bromelain and N-Acetylcysteine may liquefy nasal discharge making drainage easier. Eliminating common food allergies often decreases symptoms of sinusitis. Common food allergens include milk, wheat, eggs, citrus, corn and peanut butter. If seasonal or environmental allergens are the cause, flushing the nasal passages with saline can remove irritating substances from the nasal mucosa.
Local applications of hot packs to sinuses can increase nasal discharge and decrease pressure and pain. Steam inhalation with or without essential oils (bitter orange or eucalyptus) can help open passages and fight infection.
Prevention and Self-careKeeping the immune system strong is always helpful to prevent infection. This is done by eating a healthy, whole foods diet, drinking plenty of water, getting enough rest and keeping stress levels down. Eating foods that stimulate the immune system and keep the sinuses open can also offer support. Such foods include garlic, onions, ginger, mustard, horseradish and mushrooms. Avoid foods that you are allergic or sensitive to. These foods put an extra load on your immune system making it more difficult to fight infections. Avoid refined foods, heavy protein foods, sugar and sweet foods, dairy products and caffeine during and infection. Consulting a healthcare professional is always recommended as they can assess your condition and create an individualized treatment plan.