Ep. 19: Beware of Dangerous Sinusitis Complications
Recently I have published posts which have introduced you to the sinus cavities, discussed tests to help diagnose sinus infections and shared insights into the best sinusitis treatment options. Today’s episode of the Dr. Momma Says Podcast allows me to share information to help you understand dangerous sinusitis complications.
Although sinus problems are common, some of the most devastating and dangerous sinusitis complications are not well known. By better understanding these complications, I hope that people will become more committed to treating and preventing sinus infections.
Most sinus infections are indeed caused by viruses; however, once the sinuses become blocked, regardless of cause, severe and dangerous complications can happen. Usually, surgery is involved in treating these complications, but long-term consequences can sill happen.
Some of the previously shared symptoms of sinus infections are simply symptoms but are not considered to be complications. In the medical field, we consider a complication as a secondary disease or problem that happens as a result of the already existing one. In other words, we prefer to just treat the one problem and not have to focus attention on a new one that occurs because the first one could not be controlled.
The sinus cavity walls share a thin bone border with the surrounding tissue such as the eyes, brain and major nerves and some blood vessels. Dangerous sinus infection complications can occur when the infections spread outside the border of the sinuses.
Understanding when these complications may be occurring is important to keep a potentially life-threatening, dangerous complication from becoming a pure catastrophe. Although these problems are rare, they are important to recognize and treat as soon as possible.
Categories of the most dangerous sinusitis complications
An infection in the sinuses can sometimes spread to the eye structures and cause several different problems depending on which tissues are involved. Significant swelling affecting one eye is a characteristic symptom. Some of the signs that dangerous sinusitis complications of the eye have occurred include:
- Swelling of the white part of the eye
- Pus draining from the swollen eye
- Redness of the eye and/or eyelid
- Eyeball appears to be bulging out of the head
- Pain when the eye moves
- Difficulty making eyeball move
- Change of vision in the eye
Depending upon the location or degree of infection, there are several forms of sinusitis complications impacting the eye.
- Preseptal cellulitis
- Orbital cellulitis
- Periosteal abscess
- Orbital abscess.
An untreated sinus infection can also spread to the brain or to the tissue surrounding the brain. Some of the signs that dangerous sinusitis complications have spread to the brain include:
- Sleepiness and confusion
- Neck stiffness
- Trouble focusing or paying attention
- Sluggish overall behavior
- Personality changes
Depending upon the location or degree of infection, there are several forms of sinusitis complications can impact the brain.
- Epidural Abscess
- Brain Abscess
- Clotting in brain blood vessels
Both acute and chronic sinusitis can spread into the bone causing an infection called osteomyelitis. Although this infection can happen in the maxillary sinus, it most commonly occurs when the frontal sinus infection spreads to the forehead bone. Once the forehead bone is infected, a lump-like swelling occurs which has been called “Pott puffy tumor” even though there is not an actual tumor.
Infected bone can be very difficult to cure and may need surgery as well as long-term intravenous antibiotics.
The Sinus Cavity
Mucoceles are chronic cysts that develop in sinuses because of a blocked drainage site; consequently, they can continue to grow and expand. When they get larger they may cause the bone to become thin to spread to nearby tissues, such as the brain and the eye.
Nasal polyps can develop in sinus cavities and can continue to grow into the surrounding tissues. Many times, nasal polyps are not discovered until they grow into the nasal cavity.
Based on these dangerous sinusitis complications discussed, I hope everyone better understands the importance of aggressively treating sinus infections. If symptoms do not improve, be sure to follow up with your physician to create a new treatment plan. It is never a good idea to let sinus infections “run their course” without some attempt at treatment. Remember that antibiotics are often not needed but many other treatment options are available and should be considered.
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