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February 15, 2011 > Do You Have Sinus Problems?

Do You Have Sinus Problems?

Learn About Medications and Other Treatment Options

Do you have a hard time breathing through your nose? Do you wake up with a headache or stuffy nose? Maybe your nose runs a little more than it should. It could be just a cold or allergies. But it could also be something more serious.

"This is the time of year when many people are dealing with lingering colds or the start of the spring allergy season, both of which can affect the sinuses," said Dr. Piali Dattaray, a member of the Washington Hospital staff who specializes in otolaryngology (ear, nose, and throat). "It's important to distinguish whether your sinus issues are due to a cold or allergies, or if something else is going on."

Dattaray will provide answers at an upcoming seminar titled "Do You Have Sinus Problems?" The free seminar is scheduled for Tuesday, February 22, from 1 to 2:30 p.m., at the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium at Washington West, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont. You can register online at or call (800) 963-7070 for more information.

"Sinus infections are one of the most common reasons people miss work and take antibiotics," she said. "But antibiotics are only one component of the treatment for sinusitis."

Dattaray will talk about sinusitis, which refers to any sinus infection that causes inflammation, and other sinus issues. She will also discuss some of the treatments that are available, including medications and surgical options.

When the sinus openings become blocked or too much mucus builds up, bacteria and other germs can grow inside the nasal passages causing an infection, she explained. This build up is most often caused by colds and allergies, but structural issues like a deviated septum or polyps inside the nose can also contribute to a blockage.

Sinusitis is categorized by how long it has lasted, with acute being less than four weeks. Sub-acute is when it lasts four to 12 weeks and chronic sinusitis lasts three months or longer.

She said most acute cases of sinusitis are caused by an infection that results from an upper respiratory tract infection. However, allergens or pollutants can also trigger acute sinusitis. Sinusitis can also be complicated by factors such as nasal polyps or even fungal infections, she added.

Finding Relief

"There are a number of treatment options that can help patients get relief," Dattaray said. "Most patients with sinusitis will improve in about two weeks. If symptoms are prolonged or you are experiencing severe headaches, facial swelling, or vision problems, you should seek medical care."

She will talk about some of the medications that are available, including nasal sprays and antihistamines. While prescription steroid nasal sprays can help alleviate blockages caused by polyps and allergies, she cautions against using over-the-counter decongestant nasal sprays.

"Prolonged use of decongestant nasal sprays causes a rebound effect," Dattaray explained. "The nose becomes physically dependent on them and it can get to the point where you need them all the time to breathe."

She will also talk about the benefits of natural remedies like saline washes and humidifiers. She said cleansing the nasal passages with a saline solution can help to flush out germs and allergens, while using a humidifier at night helps to keep the nasal passages moist.

When other treatments aren't working, it may be time to consider surgical options, according to Dattaray. She will discuss some of the procedures that are available, including balloon sinuplasty.

"This is a newer endoscopic procedure that is done on an outpatient basis using either local or general anesthesia," she said. "It uses a small, flexible balloon catheter to enlarge the sinus passageways without damaging the lining of the sinuses."

Dattaray said the balloon sinuplasty is less invasive than a traditional endoscopic procedure, which can also be done on an outpatient basis but requires general anesthesia. The traditional endoscopic procedure is also done through the nose without making an incision. The procedure opens the natural passages of the sinuses and uses image-guidance technology. It is particularly useful for people with severe disease or structural blockages, such as nasal polyps, she added.

Learn More About Sinus Problems

To learn more about treatment options for sinus problems, come to the free Health and Wellness seminar on Tuesday, February 22, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West) in Fremont. Register online at

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