A sinus infection, known medically as sinusitis, is inflammation of the nasal cavity. Increased narrowing of the nasal passages can cause sinus obstruction and mucous build-up. This is most commonly caused by a virus, allergies or a deviated septum, but can also result from bacterial and fungal infections. Learn how to drain sinuses when you have an infection or feel sinusitis symptoms coming on. Regularly draining your sinuses may help prevent infections from recurring or coming on in the first place. 

There are two main types of sinusitis: Acute and chronic sinusitis. Acute sinusitis will completely resolve within one month. Chronic sinusitis lasts for prolonged periods of more than three months without going away.

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What causes sinusitis?

Generally, there are six categories of causes for sinus infections:

  1. Anatomical causes: Such as a deviated septum or enlargement of the nasal turbinates
  2. Physiological causes: Increased estrogen such as experienced during pregnancy
  3. Lifestyle choices: Day-to-day activities like alcohol consumption and smoking
  4. Infectious and inflammatory causes: Bacteria, viruses, fungi, allergies, and polyps
  5. Developmental disorders: Genetic conditions such as Cystic Fibrosis (CF), which affects the lungs, pancreas, and other organs, resulting in a thick buildup of mucus
  6. Nasal and sinus tumors: Tumors in the nose and sinuses can result in the blockage of vital drainage pathways.

What are common symptoms of sinusitis?

Many of the symptoms of sinusitis are common in both the acute and chronic forms of the infection. Common symptoms of a sinus infection include:

  1. Nasal irritation and headaches.
  2. Pain of the forehead, upper jaws and teeth, or between the eyes.
  3. Sinus discharge through the nose that could also flow down the throat; sore throat.
  4. Congestion that restricts breathing through the nose. Your sense of taste and smell may be affected and your voice may sound nasal.
  5. Persistent cough from throat irritation caused by the draining discharge. Often worse when when lying down, so sitting upright can help.

If you suspect a sinus infection, you should stay hydrated and get plenty of rest. You could also try some home remedies. Should your sinus infection last more than ten days you may want to schedule an appointment to see your doctor. 

how to drain sinuses

Home methods on how to drain sinuses

One of the most common home remedies for sinusitis is nasal saline irrigation, a form of home therapy that involves using a saltwater solution to flush out the nasal passages. Saline irrigation is especially useful for people who have had sinus surgery and has been reported as one of the most effective home remedies for sinus infections. While home remedies can help in the short term, they may not be as effective for long-term problems. If you experience long-lasting or frequently recurring sinus infection, see your doctor.

Also see your doctor earlier if you have emphysema, asthma, or if you’re taking medication that suppresses your immune system.

Is surgery a possibility?

A sinus infection can be diagnosed and treated by a family medicine doctor, a pediatrician, an internist, a nurse practitioner or a physician assistant. For a more specialized examination, your doctor may refer you to an otolaryngologist. Most insurances will allow you to see an ENT specialist without a referral.  If the infection is caused by an unusual or rare bacteria, you may need to be seen by an infectious disease specialist. In case it’s suspected that allergies are contributing to the infection, an allergist consultation may be helpful. Sometimes, when the sinusitis is too frequent or will not resolve with medical management, the otolaryngologist may need to perform surgery. For patients with chronic or recurrent acute sinusitis, surgery has been shown to provide greater symptom relief than other treatments.

Contact Dr. Garrett Bennett today for an appointment if you experience sinus drainage issues or any other functional sinus concerns. Dr. Bennett is a nasal and sinus specialist with a practice dedicated to nasal and breathing issues.