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Sinusitis Takes Major Toll on Sufferers and
Health Care System

(April 15, 2004- Every year tens of millions of people suffer from chronic sinusitis or acute sinusitis, making it the most chronic condition in the United States, according to the National Academy on an Aging Society.

Sinusitis is an extremely painful condition that has a major toll on the health and energy of the sufferer.

Sinus Infections Ruin Lives
It’s hard for someone who doesn’t suffer from sinus infections to understand just how painful and draining of a disease it is. Sinus infections can literally disable a person from being able to function normally.

Sinusitis cripples the lifestyle of the person who has it, causing great pain and fatigue. The ability to function normally is gone, greatly affecting not only the life of the sufferer, but also the family, friends, and acquaintances of that sufferer.

And the toll isn’t just on personal health, either.

Sinusitis is a Costly Chronic Disease
Health care expenditures to treat sinusitis cost the U.S. health care system nearly $6 billion every year, according to the U.S. Government's Agency for Health Care Research and Quality. This number makes sinusitis one of the most expensive chronic disorders to deal with every year.

Like with many costly diseases, there is no cure for sinusitis. There are quite a few treatment options, however. There’s oral antibiotics, nebulized antibiotics, IV therapy, over the counter drugs, sprays, nasal washes, and sinus surgery.

Sinusitis is a year round condition, although it tends to be most prevalent in the wintertime. And there are many things that can contribute to a sinus condition.

Sinus Infection Symptoms
Sinusitis can be caused by colds, allergies, problems with the immune system or structural problems in the nasal cavity. Left undiagnosed or untreated, sinusitis can cause further complications with the nose, eyes or middle ear and may last for months or even years," said Allen Adinoff, M.D., FAAAAI, Vice Chair of the AAAAI's Sinusitis Committee.

Symptoms of a sinus infection can include, but aren’t limited to, thick yellow nasal discharge, headache, a feeling of facial swelling, congestion, fatigue, and fever.

Acute Sinusitis Versus Chronic Sinusitis
There are two main forms of sinus infections – acute and chronic. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology does a good job of explaining both as follows:

Acute Sinusitis
Acute sinusitis may be caused by a previous viral infection, which causes swelling of the sinus membranes. As a result, one or more of the sinuses may become blocked. A bacterial infection may then occur as a result of the sinus blockage.

- Acute sinusitis commonly follows a typical "cold." If cold symptoms last much more than one week, the cold may have advanced into a sinus infection.

- The most common bacteria that cause acute sinusitis are streptococcus pneumoniae, Hemophilus influenza, type b and Branhamella catarrhalis.

- If this is your first episode of acute sinusitis and you are not too sick, you may want to give it a few days to resolve before asking a physician to prescribe an antibiotic. A decongestant might help relieve symptoms and promote drainage of the infection.

- If you (or your child) have a fever (greater than 100.5° F), pain or swelling in the face or eye, redness on the cheek or around the eye, severe headaches, confusion or a stiff neck, see your physician immediately.

- If you have frequent episodes of acute sinusitis or if your symptoms never completely go away, you may have chronic sinusitis.

Chronic Sinusitis
A diagnosis of chronic sinusitis is made when sinusitis symptoms last for more than 12 weeks despite medical treatment. Chronic sinusitis may be caused by blockage of the sinus openings, problems with the movement of mucus or a weakness in the immune system. Symptoms are similar to those of acute sinusitis however, patients usually do not have a fever.

- Factors such as allergies or bacterial infection also play a major role in chronic sinusitis by producing inflammation in the sinus membranes.

- Chronic sinusitis is one of the most common chronic illnesses in Americans under 45 years of age.

- Approximately 20% of patients with chronic sinusitis develop nasal polyps. Nasal polyps are cyst-like growths that develop from sinus tissue. The resulting growth causes the sinus cavities to become blocked.

- Chronic infection and exposure to allergens can contribute to sinus membrane inflammation that fails to clear up. People with chronic sinusitis should undergo an evaluation for allergies, especially to test for allergens that are difficult to avoid, such as indoor dust mites and molds.

If you think you may be suffering from sinusitis, it is important to be checked by an allergist, immunologist, or ENT. Letting sinusitis go unchecked could create further complications down the line.

If you don’t suffer from sinusitis, being more understanding of someone who does can go a long ways. Sinus sufferers often feel alienated as others don’t understand why they miss so many days of work and are fatigued all the time. The quality of a person’s health and ability to function is greatly decreased during an infection and the suffering the person goes through is nearly unbearable. By educating yourself and others about this condition, you are making a great contribution to the sufferer as the wait for a “cure” continues.

Visit the Sinusitis Reference Section


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