Share This
Finding relief from sinusitis  Smart nutrition in a diet-crazy world  5 essential steps for a healthy pregnancy  [ MORE UPDATES FROM ENLOE ] Hospital Safety Scores are in  Enloe now offers online bill pay  Your gift of caring 

Finding relief from sinusitis

Join us for a free event:
Sinusitis vs. allergies:
Do you know the difference?

Learn more »

If you experience persistent head congestion and can’t leave the house without tissue, you may assume you have allergies or that you’ve been fighting colds. But all that stuffiness may actually be a symptom of a different issue — sinusitis.

Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinuses that can occur as the result of an infection or a virus, bacteria or fungus, or it can be an ongoing, chronic problem. Because symptoms often overlap with those of a cold or allergies, it is often not properly diagnosed. Sinusitis can interfere with an individual’s ability to enjoy daily life. The occasional flare-ups can be treated by your primary care doctor, however if you are battling these symptoms on a regular basis, the doctors at Enloe Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) can help identify if the trouble really is sinusitis and help you find relief.

Getting the right diagnosis

“Sinusitis can encompass a wide range of symptoms and is felt differently by different people,” explains Monroe Sprague, MD, board-certified in otolaryngology. “There is a great deal of crossover with other ailments. A headache caused by sinusitis could be confused with muscle pain or muscle headaches. Congestion could be confused with allergies. Pressure can be confused with an infection.”

Sinusitis occurs when the sinus openings become blocked. Often sinusitis can follow a cold or allergies when too much mucus blocks the opening of the sinuses. Sinusitis can be acute — symptoms are present for four weeks or less — or chronic — an infection lasting longer than 12 weeks.

Symptoms of sinusitis almost always include:

  • Nasal congestion and blockage
  • Nasal drainage (often postnasal drip)

Other symptoms that may accompany these are facial pressure, headache, a cough that often worsens at night, fatigue and loss of smell.

Because the range of symptoms can be so wide and vary from person to person, it takes a concerted effort to properly diagnose sinusitis. “The first thing I have each patient do is tell me their whole story, not just their symptoms,” says Dr. Sprague. “Then I look inside their nose and examine its features. There are both obvious and subtle features in the nose that can contribute to sinusitis. We may use nasal endoscopy, X-rays or a CT scan to get an even better idea about what’s going on in the sinuses.”

Treatment options

If your doctor determines you do have sinusitis, there are a variety of treatments that can help. Treatment generally begins with medical therapies or behavioral changes. “For instance if allergies are aggravating sinusitis, we often prescribe an antihistamine, nasal spray or a saline flush,” says Dr. Sprague. “We also try to help patients identify what they are allergic to and ask them to avoid exposure as much as possible. Everybody is a little different.” Other treatments can include decongestants, anti-inflammatory agents or sometimes prednisone, a corticosteroid that can reduce inflammation.

“If medical and behavioral therapies don’t work to relieve an individual’s sinusitis, or sinus problems are recurrent, we look for a more long-term solution,” says Dr. Sprague. Long-term solutions can include correcting anatomical features that may be making an individual susceptible to sinus problems. Correcting anatomical features requires surgery.

Balloon sinuplasty

A recently developed treatment used for chronic or recurrent acute sinusitis is balloon sinuplasty. “This minimally invasive procedure is one of the newest advances in sinus surgery,” says James Lacey, MD, board-certified in otolaryngology and sleep medicine. “Prior to this, otolaryngologists were performing sinus surgery roughly the same way for over 20 years.”

A physical exam as well as a CT scan are used to determine if a patient is a good candidate for balloon sinuplasty. “The procedure is very similar to the way doctors open up blocked arteries during a balloon angioplasty,” explains Dr. Lacey. “A balloon catheter is inserted into the inflamed sinus. The balloon is then inflated to expand the sinus opening, and fluid is often sprayed into the infected sinus to flush out unwanted mucus and other obstructions. The balloon is then deflated and removed, leaving the sinuses open, which allows for normal drainage and relief of sinus pressure.”

There is generally minimal post-operative discomfort associated with the procedure. Most patients are able to return to work within two days, whereas standard sinus procedures usually require 7 to 10 days of recovery.

“I like this procedure because of the ease it affords my patients. They can often drive themselves to the procedure and back home afterwards. Most of my patients tell me it was no worse than going to the dentist,” says Dr. Lacey. And the results can lead to big changes in the lives of sinus sufferers. “I had one woman who came back a week after the procedure and told me it was the first time in ages she’d been able to smell cinnamon toast. She was thrilled.”

Schedule your ENT appointment

To schedule an appointment with an Enloe Ear, Nose and Throat doctor, call 530.342.2411. For more information about Enloe ENT, visit

Sinusitis vs. allergies: Do you know the difference?

Wednesday, May 14
6 to 8 p.m.
Enloe Conference Center
1528 Esplanade, Chico

Please join us at this free event to learn from ear, nose and throat physicians about sinus health.

• Why do we have sinuses and what is their use?
• Treating sinus conditions medically and surgically
• Ask questions of the physician panel. Email questions at

RSVP today at or by calling 877.365.6363.

Physicians on Enloe's medical staff are independent licensed practitioners who are not employed by the Medical Center.

1531 Esplanade Chico, California 95926 | P: 530.332.7300
This publication does not constitute professional medical advice. Although it is intended to be accurate, neither the publisher nor any other party assumes liability for loss or damage due to reliance on this material. If you have medical questions, consult your medical professional. Images may be from one or more of these sources: ©Thinkstock, ©iStock, ©Fotolia, Mark Thau. ©2014 BlueSpire Strategic Marketing I

Powered by BlueSpire Strategic Marketing