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Healthy Geezer

Sinus infections can cause a host of troubles

By Fred Cicetti | Aug 06, 2014

Q. Can a sinus infection give you a toothache?

I can write from personal experience on this one. I had a bad toothache that sent me to my dentist. He did some x-rays and could find nothing wrong. He asked me about my sinuses and I told him I was fighting an infection. Bingo.

Yes, infection in the sinuses located in your cheekbones can cause your upper jaw and teeth to ache, and your cheeks to become tender to the touch. Sinusitis is a nasty malady that can do much more than give you a toothache.

Sinusitis, which is infection or inflammation of the sinuses, creates suffering for about 37 million Americans every year.

The sinuses are four pairs of cavities: the frontal sinuses over the eyes, maxillary sinuses inside each cheekbone, ethmoid sinuses just behind the bridge of the nose, and sphenoid sinuses behind the ethmoids. Each sinus is connected to the nose.

Acute sinusitis lasts for four weeks or less. Subacute sinusitis runs four to eight weeks. Chronic sinusitis can continue for years.

Recurrent sinusitis includes several acute attacks within a year.

Unlike sinusitis, a common cold usually goes away without treatment in about 10 days.

So, if you have what feels like a bad cold for longer than 10 days, go to your doctor for a check-up.

Most cases of acute sinusitis start with a cold or allergy attack, which inflames the mucous membranes of the sinuses. Swelling traps air and mucus in the sinuses, and they cannot drain properly. The trapped mucus creates ideal conditions for bacteria to grow.

Symptoms of chronic sinusitis may be less severe than those of acute sinusitis. However, untreated chronic sinusitis can cause damage to the sinuses and cheekbones that sometimes requires surgery to repair.

Most people with sinusitis have pain or tenderness. Other symptoms of sinusitis can include fever, weakness, fatigue, nasal congestion, cough and sore throat.

If you have acute sinusitis, your doctor may prescribe decongestants, antibiotics and pain relievers. Many cases of acute sinusitis will end without antibiotics.

Many healthcare providers treat chronic sinusitis as though it is an infection, by using antibiotics and decongestants. Others use antibiotics with steroid nasal sprays. Further research is needed to determine the best treatment.

When medical treatment fails, surgery may be the only alternative for treating chronic sinusitis. The most common surgery done today is functional endoscopic sinus surgery to enlarge the natural openings and allow drainage.

FESS is less invasive than conventional sinus surgery. With the endoscope, the surgeon can look directly into the nose while clearing the narrow channels between the sinuses. This type of surgery can be done under local or general anesthesia.

One worthwhile way to help keep your sinuses clear is to use an over-the-counter saltwater nasal wash every day. Most pharmacies carry them. They help remove mucus and bacteria from the nose and sinuses. I use one myself, and it has been beneficial.

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