Sinusitis is a condition that affects nearly 40 million Americans annually. Over the last ten years, the prevalence of this condition has skyrocketed, potentially because of heightened levels of pollution in the air, resistance to antibiotics, and more crowded urban conditions.
This condition, an inflammation of the sinus lining, can result in swollen sinuses that become obstructed or closed off. This means that normal mucus drainage cannot occur, which can cause infection and inflammation of the sinuses.
Symptoms of Sinusitis
There are several common symptoms of sinusitis. If you experience any of these, you should talk to a doctor.
- Pain, pressure, fullness or congestion in the face
- Breathing difficulty, especially through the nose
- Green or yellow mucus discharge from the nose
- Reduced sense of taste or smell
- Headaches, sore throat, or fatigue
Are There Specialists?
There are many doctors that can treat this condition, but an otolaryngologist or ear, nose and throat doctor is uniquely qualified to deal with the issue. You should ask your primary care physician if he or she can refer you to an ENT doctor if you think you may have sinusitis.
Among the advantages of visiting a specialist is that there will be more options for treatment available. Your PCP may be able to perform traditional surgery or use medication, where less invasive and newer approaches may be offered by an ENT doctor.
Approaches to Treatment
There are several methods of treating this condition. These include medical therapy and endoscopic surgery on the sinuses, either with traditional cutting instruments or with balloon catheters.
Medical therapy involves antibiotics, topical steroid sprays, or saline and steam drops or inhalation. Roughly one fifth of patients do not respond to medical therapy and require surgical treatment. Traditional surgery involves removing tissue and bone to enlarge the opening of the sinus cavity. This can result in pain, bleeding and scarring.
Balloon sinuplasty refers to a group of devices that use a balloon and catheter to stretch and open the patient’s sinuses. The process of opening and restructuring the blocked passage is minimally invasive and does not involve the removal of any bone or tissue; rather with pressure applied by the balloon the blocked sinus passageways are opened.
Balloon sinuplasty is certified by the FDA and is safe and very effective. It can be used in conjunction with other approaches and does not limit future treatment options. Relief from the condition varies from patient to patient, but research has shown significant improvements from ten months to two years after surgery using this procedure.
Candidacy and Insurance Coverage
Generally speaking, medication is the first approach to treating sinusitis. If antibiotics and topical treatments fail, your ENT doctor may recommend the balloon sinuplasty procedure. Many insurance companies, including Medicare, cover balloon sinuplasty. You should, as always, check with your insurance provider to find out if you have coverage for the procedure.
If you have sinusitis and are not sure what to do, we are here to consult and offer treatments. By all means, give us a call at Atlanta ENT today!