Those suffering through another season of allergies in the Midlands might actually be experiencing a chronic sinus infection called sinusitis. Both conditions share similar symptoms; learning to tell them apart can mean the difference between misery and relief.
Allergies vs. Sinus Infections
An estimated 50 million Americans experience seasonal allergies – usually in the spring or fall, when pollen counts are highest, and mold is on the rise. But many of these individuals may have mistakenly self-diagnosed themselves. The symptoms of allergies are nearly identical to those of chronic sinus infections. These might include any or all of the following:
- Itchy nose/throat
- Stuffy nose
- Runny nose
- Post-nasal drip
There are a couple of symptoms unique to each condition. Itchy, watery eyes primarily affect those with allergies, and facial pain and pressure is usually reserved for those with sinusitis. But not everybody experiences all of these symptoms and there are always exceptions to the rules.
Allergies are the immune system’s response to something it considers a threat. Common triggers include pollen from grasses, plants and trees; mold spores; pet dander; foods; smoke and other environmental factors. They are most likely to occur during transitional seasons, i.e., spring and fall, but can happen any time of the year.
Sinusitis is the result of swelling and inflammation affecting the nasal passages. It frequently occurs shortly after you’ve experienced a cold or allergies. The symptoms of sinusitis tend to be more severe and last longer. When they persist for more than 12 weeks, the condition is classified as chronic.
Knowing the difference between the two gives you the best shot at a quicker recovery.
Midland residents experiencing the symptoms listed above should schedule an appointment with a CENTA specialist for a proper diagnosis. Even experts sometimes have difficulty telling the difference, making a thorough examination, review of your medical history and diagnostic testing the best way to determine which condition is responsible for your symptoms.
If you have allergies, your doctor is likely to recommend over-the-counter medications such as antihistamines, decongestants and allergy relievers. If these do not lead to improvement, stronger prescription drugs may be needed. Those who still don’t find relief might consider immunotherapy, a long-term treatment that helps your body build up a tolerance to the allergen through repeated doses (either injections or droplets you place beneath your tongue) over a period of three to five years.
The initial recommendations for sinusitis treatment are similar. OTC drugs, nasal sprays and corticosteroids should be tried first, in addition to home remedies for easing pain and discomfort. These might include warm compresses and humidifiers. If these don’t help, you may be a candidate for a surgical procedure.
There are two main types of sinus surgery; the one recommended for you will be based on the severity and duration of your symptoms and any physical obstructions that may be contributing factors.
Functional endoscopic sinus surgery, or FESS, involves the insertion of a thin, flexible tool with a small camera lens attached to the top through the nasal passages. Your surgeon will rely on the images transmitted by the camera to guide them through the procedure by removing blockages. Some excision of bone and/or tissue may be required in order to eliminate obstructions and restore breathing.
Balloon Sinuplasty is a less-invasive procedure that involves no cutting. Your surgeon will insert a catheter with a balloon attached to the end; once it is guided through the nasal passages into the cavity it is gently inflated, opening up the cavity and promoting the drainage of built-up fluid.
If you are bothered by persistent symptoms and aren’t sure whether they are the result of allergies or sinus infection, make an appointment with a CENTA ear, nose and throat doctor. Regardless of your diagnosis, a solution is available to provide you with relief.