When a Cold isn’t Just a Cold – Sinusitis Symptoms & Risks

If the sinus congestion just won't go away or is accompanied by pain or pressure in the face, you may have sinusitis.

If the sinus congestion just won’t go away or is accompanied by pain or pressure in the face, you may have sinusitis.

The 2014-2015 cold and flu season is well underway. So, no one’s surprised to experience watery eyes, a stuffy nose and sneezing. Chalk it up the common cold, manage your symptoms and let the virus run its course. But if you’re still waiting for relief after about 10 days, that’s a sign that your common cold has led to something more serious – sinusitis.

Sinuses essentially are air spaces in your head that are connected to your nose and lined with mucous membranes and tiny hair-like structures called cilia, which help to move mucus across the sinus membranes and toward the nearest exit. Most people have four sets of nasal sinuses located in the forehead above the eyes; inside the cheekbones; behind the bridge of the nose; and behind the nose, just beneath the brain. But everyone’s sinuses are as different as a set of fingerprints.

In any case, sinusitis happens when an infection or allergy makes the tissues inside your sinuses inflamed, red and swollen. Symptoms include stuffy nose; nasal discharge; cough; sore throat; fever; headache and pain or pressure in the face or teeth, especially when bending forward; and a decreased sense of smell or taste. Like colds, sinusitis cases typically resolve themselves within a few weeks. But there are signs that should prompt a visit to the doctor’s office.

  • Nasal discharge that’s green or yellow in color: This can be a sign of a bacterial infection.
  • Sinusitis symptoms that last more than a few months: When symptoms persist past the three-month mark, you have chronic sinusitis. This may indicate more serious underlying causes including allergies, polyps, immune deficiencies or dental diseases.
  • Nasal polyps: When sinuses remain inflamed for extended periods of time, the membranes may thicken and swell, creating grape-like masses called polyps. These polyps can swell large enough to block the nasal airway, making it difficult or even impossible to breathe through your nose. While many can be treated with medication, some nasal polyps will require surgery.

If you have persistent symptoms of sinusitis, it’s critical that you get medical treatment. That’s because your sinuses and your brain are separated by only a thin layer of bone. If a sinus infection makes its way through the bone, it can infect the lining of your brain, causing meningitis, or even infect the brain itself – two potentially life-threatening issues. Infections also can make their way into your eye sockets threatening permanent blindness. Call 904-461-6060 to schedule an appointment with a specialist at St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat.