Why do I get recurrent sinus infections?

Dr. Timothy Knudsen
Posted 6/15/2016 by Nebraska Medicine

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by Timothy Knudsen, MD, specialist in Ear, Nose and Throat

It gets old, doesn’t it? You get a rotten sinus infection — then just after you’ve finally kicked it, there’s another one. Some people have up to five in one season!

Why do some people get so many sinus infections?

First, you’ve got to look at the basics. Does your house have really dry air, which irritates sinuses? A humidifier (maybe several) can help greatly. Do you drink enough water – several glasses a day? That’s helpful, too. Do you smoke? Please, quit. It’s better for your overall health, and it will certainly help your sinus problems.

Often times, recurrent sinus infections are a sign that you have unrecognized chronic allergies. Or, it’s because you’re not taking your allergy medication correctly. Maybe you’re not using the nasal steroid the right way. That leaves you susceptible to sinus infections. If you control allergies, you can often control sinus infections.

We advise patients to try nasal irrigation, like a neti pot to open up sinuses and wash them out.

We also prescribe antibiotics for sinus infections. If you don’t take the full prescription, you’re setting yourself up for another bout. You’ve got to finish the entire bottle, even if you feel better. That’s just how it works.

Balloon sinuplasty helps many avoid surgery

If your sinus infection is still bad despite antibiotics — that’s when you need an evaluation to fix the blockage.

We can do a balloon sinuplasty in the office, and avoid surgery – for people with a minor sinus blockage. This is a fairly new procedure that involves using a balloon to dilate the sinus openings and relieve the blockage.

I’ll place a thin endoscopic tube through your nose and then thread a guide wire into the sinus cavity – then a small balloon. We’ll inflate the balloon to enlarge the sinus opening, which allows the sinus cavity to drain better. You’ll go home the same day. Patients love it, because it’s instant relief.

If your case is more challenging, we may need to do this procedure in the operating room. Either way, it works really well. You’ll enjoy the relief!

Sinus surgery is easier

For some people, these recurrent sinus infections occur because structures inside the nose simply make them susceptible to infections. A deviated septum may be the cause, as it narrows the nasal passages so they don’t drain properly. Your nose gets crusty as the drainage builds – which gives bacteria a breeding ground, causing the infection.

We’ve got several procedures to correct a deviated nasal septum, which are often much easier on patients. So if you’ve heard stories from several years ago, just know that things ARE better.

Septal surgery is an outpatient procedure – right away a bonus, since there’s no overnight stay. We’ll straighten out your septum – your nasal structure – so your nose drains better. You’re back at work a couple days later, and swelling is gone within two weeks or so. Great!

While this procedure helps you breathe better, there may be an additional benefit -- improving the shape of your nose. Many patients feel they deserve it, after the hassle of sinus infections!

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