Sinusitis Care and Treatment
Why Choose Treatment for Sinusitis at University of Colorado Hospital?
University of Colorado Hospital's otolaryngology clinic provides the most up-to-date, sophisticated, and comprehensive approach to the diagnosis and management of nasal and sinus disorders available in the Rocky Mountain region.
What is Sinusitis?
Sinusitis is a swelling of the mucous membranes that line the sinus cavities, which are part of the upper respiratory system, in the bones surrounding the nose. This swelling can interfere with normal sinus drainage, and cause increased mucus production.
To work properly, the sinuses need adequate mucus drainage and a functioning immune system to fight off infections and inflammation. Untreated and prolonged sinus inflammation can lead to infection and headache.
Allergy, infection or environmental factors can all cause swelling in the nose that lead to obstruction or blockage of the sinuses and create symptoms.
Tests and Treatments
Tests for Sinusitis
The diagnosis of acute sinus problems can be challenging, as it is not always clear if infection (bacterial) is present or if the common cold (viral) is to blame. Your doctor will diagnose sinusitis after obtaining a complete medical history and physical examination of the tissues of the nose.
Additional tests may include:
- Nasal endoscopy – to examine the inside of the nose with a special camera and telescope
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan – to obtain detailed x-ray pictures of the sinuses may be needed for patients with chronic (long-lasting) sinusitis
Treatments for Sinusitis
The primary goal when treating sinusitis is to decrease the inflammation in the nose and sinus openings to improve sinus drainage. Your doctor may use one or more of the following treatments:
- Nasal wash of the nose and sinuses with saltwater or saline – to help remove mucus, bacteria and viruses
- Steroid nasal spray – to decrease inflammation and mucus production. Sprays may take several weeks of regular use to take effect.
- Antibiotics – to treat bacterial infections in the sinus cavities. Antibiotic treatment may require one to three weeks or longer to be effective.
- Decongestants – to unblock sinus openings
- Antihistamines – to stop the effects of histamines, which are the main chemicals produced by allergic reactions
- Pain relief medications – to ease the discomfort caused by facial pressure and fight fever
- Systemic steroids – to treat severe nasal and sinus inflammation. These medicines have potential side effects, including high blood pressure, increased blood sugar production and mood changes, so their use must be carefully monitored by your doctor.
- Functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS) – to treat sinusitis if medical therapies have not worked. In FESS, your doctor uses nasal endoscopy to get a magnified view of the nose and sinuses, and then removes tissue that is diseased or is blocking the sinus cavities.