Is Chronic Sinusitis Contagious?
We have all suffered from the occasional cold or virus. Chronic sinusitis is a different story; the condition is painful, unpleasant, and can lead to other physical problems. Is chronic sinusitis contagious? It depends upon the root cause of the condition.
Causes of Sinusitis
There are many causes of sinusitis. A sinus infection may originate from a virus or may be the result of a bacterial or fungal infection. A sinus infection may also be the result of inflammation from seasonal allergies. Because of this the answer to the question “is chronic sinusitis contagious?” is a “maybe.”
Bacterial and fungal infections are not transferable from person to person. The answer is different if your sinus infection is viral. While the sinus infection itself is not contagious, the virus which caused it is. Furthermore, that virus may is unlikely to lead to a sinus infection in every patient with whom it comes into contact.
What is Sinusitis?
Also referred to as a sinus infection or rhinosinusitis, sinusitis is an infection in sinus cavities. When the nasal cavities become inflamed and swollen for a period greater than 12 weeks despite efforts to treat them, the infection is then classified as chronic sinusitis.
What are the Symptoms of Chronic Sinusitis?
Your sinus cavities are the hollow cavities within cheeks, sides of the nose, and behind the nose and forehead. These cavities are usually clear and filled with air. There is a thin, mucosal lining in the sinus cavities to keep them moist and functioning. When this lining becomes irritated and inflamed as a result of bacteria, fungi, or a virus, the condition is called sinusitis.
There are several symptoms we will look for when examining you to determine if you suffer from chronic sinusitis. For an infection to be classified as chronic sinusitis, there must be inflammation of the nasal passages as well as at least two of the following symptoms:
- Thick, discolored mucus draining from the nose and/or down the back of the throat (post-nasal drip)
- Nasal congestion which can cause difficulty breathing through the nose
- Tenderness, swelling, pain, or pressure around the nose, cheeks, eyes, or forehead
- Possible reduction in the sense of smell
You may also experience:
- Aching in the jaw or teeth
- Sore throat
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Ear pain or pressure
Treatments for Chronic Sinusitis
If your sinusitis lasts for longer than 12 weeks and does not respond to treatment, you can begin to feel hopeless that you will ever get relief. Unlike many sinus infections, chronic sinusitis is generally not caused by a bacterial infection and therefore does not respond to traditional treatments like antibiotics.
Many medical professionals now believe that chronic sinusitis is a condition similar to asthma and allergies and, therefore, requires very different treatment from a standard sinus infection. Treatment options may include:
- Nasal irrigation. Nasal irrigators, like a Neti-pot, are available over the counter in your local pharmacy. They use a saline solution to sweep debris, irritants, and infection from the sinus passages, providing relief from inflammation and irritation.
- Nasal corticosteroids. Steroids help the body to reduce inflammation in the nasal cavities and provide relief from many symptoms of chronic sinusitis. Since there side effects and possible drug interactions with steroid use, the use of these medications must be coordinated with your GP or other doctors.
- If neither of these options provides relief for your chronic sinusitis, it may be necessary to perform surgery on the nasal cavities to alleviate symptoms and prevent further sinusitis from occurring. In this procedure, dilation with a small balloon inserted into the sinus cavity and inflated can aid in opening blocked sinuses. If this is unsuccessful, sinus surgery may be necessary to achieve relief.
When should you see a doctor for chronic sinusitis?
Chronic sinusitis can be a frustrating, painful condition, affecting your overall quality of life. It is important that you get a correct diagnosis and the best course of treatment to alleviate your symptoms. If you believe you’re suffering from chronic sinusitis, Dr. Zadeh can help. As a board-certified ear, nose and throat specialist, he has access to the most advanced, innovative treatments for chronic sinusitis. At the Los Angeles Sinus Institute, you can expect high-quality care and a treatment that brings you relief – at last.