A maxillary sinus infection is a mostly viral, less often bacterial infection in the cavities of the jaw. It often follows in conjunction with the flu and causes pressure and pain in the face.
What is maxillary sinusitis?
Typical symptoms of acute maxillary sinusitis (sinusitis maxillaris) are a constant feeling of pressure and heat as well as dull or throbbing pain in the cheek region, which usually increases when bending over.
As the name suggests, a maxillary sinus infection is an inflammation within the small cavities in the jawbone . The cavities are mainly in the cheek area and around the eyes. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Maxillary Sinusitis.
Sinusitis usually follows a cold and causes pain and uncomfortable pressure. Inflammation can be acute or chronic. With chronic maxillary sinusitis, symptoms persist for 8 weeks or more. Inflammation can be bacterial or viral.
In the case of viral inflammation with severe swelling, it can happen that the fluid cannot escape from the cavities and the virus continues to grow in them. Bacterial inflammation can be treated with antibiotics, whereas viral sinusitis only relieves the symptoms of the disease.
A viral infection is usually the trigger for a maxillary sinus infection. The virus settles in the mucous membranes of the bone cavities and ignites the inflammation. As a result, the mucous membranes swell and prevent the liquid from draining from the nose into the throat.
Mucus and fluid concentrate in the cavities, causing uncomfortable pressure. The less continuous discharge from the maxillary sinus is guaranteed, the greater the risk of the inflammation getting worse. Although it is mainly colds that trigger a maxillary sinus infection, other reasons can also lead to inflammation.
Some allergies that make themselves felt in the nose or malpositions in the bone structure can support chronic inflammation. In addition, the cause can be nasal polyps or foreign bodies (usually in children) that have become lodged in the nose.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Typical symptoms of acute maxillary sinusitis (sinusitis maxillaris) are a constant feeling of pressure and heat as well as dull or throbbing pain in the cheek region, which usually increases when bending over. Toothache often accompanies maxillary sinusitis, which mainly affects the molars in the upper jaw, as their roots usually extend into the maxillary sinus.
In severe cases, however, the pain can also radiate into the lower jaw area. The swelling of the affected mucous membranes in the maxillary sinus region also often causes pressure headaches in the forehead area. It is not uncommon for sinusitis to be accompanied by unilateral or bilateral eye inflammation, which is often accompanied by purulent eye discharge and eyelid swelling.
Depending on the extent of the inflammation, the body temperature often increases, and mild to severe fever with chills is possible. As a result, many patients suffer from general malaise, exhaustion, tiredness and irritability. Due to the inflammation in the maxillary sinuses, a purulent secretion forms, which drains through the nose and throat and can lead to further infections and coughing, especially in the throat area and in the bronchi.
The inflammation often spreads to the mouth (gums). In the case of chronic maxillary sinusitis, those affected also suffer from odor disorders and restricted nasal breathing. In some cases, however, chronic sinusitis can also be completely symptom-free.
Diagnosis & History
The diagnosis of maxillary sinusitis is mostly based on analysis of the specific medical history and a physical examination. Accurate knowledge of allergies or causes is often more effective than a physical exam. If symptoms and physical signs are typical of maxillary sinusitis, further testing is not necessary. However, additional procedures must be performed if…
- the diagnosis remains ambiguous
- treatment with antibiotics is unsuccessful
- bone infection is also suspected
In these cases, X-ray or CT examination can be used to get a more accurate picture of the condition. There are also examinations with an endoscope or a direct laboratory analysis of the liquid in the maxillary sinuses.
If an inflammation of the maxillary sinus is recognized and treated quickly, there are usually no complications. However, if the inflammation remains untreated or is not completely cured, it can spread to other parts of the body. Sometimes chronic maxillary sinusitis develops.
This leads to severe pain, a restricted sense of smell and long-term damage to the maxillary sinuses. In addition, the inflammation can spread to the teeth and lead to serious diseases and inflammation in the mouth. Inflammation of the frontal sinus and the paranasal sinuses often accompany an inflammation of the maxillary sinuses, which can lead to further complications.
If the sinusitis shifts to the eye or ear region, further symptoms such as limited vision or hearing, the development of cysts and, rarely, life-threatening sepsis can occur. During the treatment of a maxillary sinus infection, bleeding, wound healing disorders and nerve injuries can occur during an operation.
The prescribed antibiotics, nasal sprays and painkillers can cause intolerance and allergic reactions in risk groups. If treated too late or inadequately, there is a risk of permanent loss of smell.
When should you go to the doctor?
If olfactory disorders, fever and other typical symptoms of maxillary sinusitis are noticed, a doctor should be consulted promptly. If the symptoms persist and are increasingly affecting your well-being, a visit to your family doctor is advisable. Unusual symptoms that cannot be attributed to any other cause (e.g. pressure-sensitive eyes or a chronic runny nose) should also be examined by a doctor. If the treatment is carried out early, there are usually no further symptoms or serious complications.
However, if the maxillary sinusitis remains untreated, the pathogens can spread to other parts of the body. People who experience pain in the eye or ear region or even in the bone area along with the odor disturbance should see a doctor immediately. If cysts develop or signs of sepsis are noticed, the patient needs to go to a hospital immediately. Allergy sufferers and flu patients should inform the doctor at the first sign of a secondary illness and arrange for an examination. The right contact person is the general practitioner or an ENT doctor. With children, the pediatrician should be consulted.
Treatment & Therapy
A maxillary sinus infection is usually treated with medical and home remedies. The latter often involve treating the swollen regions with heat.
The primary goals of the treatment are to ensure the drainage of the fluid from the maxillary sinuses again and thus relieve the pressure, as well as to heal the infection and prevent further injuries and scarring. Drug treatment of a maxillary sinus infection occurs when it is a bacterial infection.
The treatment periods can range from a few days to several weeks or longer. The medicine used to cure maxillary sinusitis involves a combination of…
- Antibiotics to fight the bacteria
- Decongestant to reduce swelling
- Pain relievers such as ibuprofen to relieve the pain
- Mucolytics to loosen mucus
- Corticosteroids to reduce inflammation in the nose
Since most people fall ill with acute viral maxillary sinusitis, two-thirds of all maxillary sinusitis are cured without additional medication. However, a discussion with the doctor is advisable to be sure which type of treatment promises the greatest success.
Outlook & Forecast
Under normal circumstances, maxillary sinusitis has a good prognosis. If the person concerned undergoes medical treatment, an attempt is made to combat the disease trigger by administering medicines. If this is successful without further complications, the symptoms will already be alleviated during the therapy.
After a few days or weeks, the patient can be discharged from the treatment without any symptoms. If intolerance to the active ingredients in the prescribed medication occurs, the preparations must be changed. There are delays in the healing process, but freedom from symptoms is achieved within a short time.
If doctors find an additional infection of the bone, the prognosis worsens. The same applies if the inflammation has not been completely cured. The pathogens can spread to other parts of the body. These lead to an increase in symptoms and a decrease in general well-being. In addition, functional disorders can occur and the risk of blood poisoning increases. If the disease progresses unfavorably, the patient is at risk of chronic maxillary sinusitis. Long-term therapy is necessary in these cases.
The more stable the body’s defense system is and the healthier the lifestyle of the person affected, the better the chances of recovery. In the further course of life, a new maxillary sinus infection can occur at any time. The prognosis remains unchanged in the event of re-infestation.
A maxillary sinus infection can be prevented by avoiding overfilling (nose mucus, cleaning your nose) of the nose when you have a cold or an allergy. Contact with people who have a cold and washing your hands thoroughly also reduces the risk. Cigarette smoke and dry room air promote infections, as do of course the specific allergens in allergy sufferers.
An inflammation of the maxillary sinus is usually an acute event. It heals completely within two weeks. There is no need for scheduled follow-up visits afterwards. Because unlike a tumor disease, maxillary sinusitis is not a life-threatening event.
The effort for a diagnosis in the early stages would be far too high and uneconomical. There is also no direct connection between a first and every subsequent maxillary sinus infection. The focus of infection is always different in the acute form. Being free of symptoms allows you to lead a normal life.
However, it is possible to fall ill again at any time. Avoiding further infection is the sole responsibility of the patient. This person has to observe the usual precautionary measures in his life. In the case of chronic maxillary sinusitis, doctors help their patients as part of long-term treatment. The rhythm for remedying the complaints is determined individually.
Blood tests, X-rays, CT scans and ultrasounds provide important clues about the state of health. The physical history is also important. In the case of chronic maxillary sinusitis, the patient must take medication. Frequent doctor appointments not only indicate complications; rather, the question arises as to whether an operation is necessary instead of conservative procedures.
You can do that yourself
In many cases, a maxillary sinus infection can be treated well with simple home remedies. If symptoms do not improve with self-treatment or if they worsen, a doctor should be consulted.
Heat accelerates the healing process and relieves pain. This effect can be achieved by irradiation with a red light lamp or by moist, warm envelopes. Fresh air is good for the paranasal sinuses, head and face should be well protected by a hat and scarf, especially in the cold season. Dry room air irritates the attacked mucous membranes, air humidifiers and regular airing ensure a pleasant room climate. In addition, steam baths with the addition of thyme, camomile blossoms or essential oils support the decongestion of the mucous membranes. Nasal rinses can also be helpful with weak saline solutions, which are available at pharmacies, as are decongestant nasal sprays or drops.
As with any infection, increased fluid intake is very important for maxillary sinusitis. Herbal tea mixtures made from anti-inflammatory and expectorant medicinal herbs such as chamomile, thyme, sage, cowslip blossoms and buckhorn are best sweetened with honey and drunk as warm as possible. Ginger, turmeric, horseradish and garlic have an anti-inflammatory effect, as does the well-tried chicken soup, fruit and vegetables provide important vitamins to strengthen the immune system. So that the body can successfully fight the infection, physical rest is indicated for a few days.