More likely to occur in early childhood, allergic sinusitis is an immune system reaction to certain irritants that affects the sinus cavities.
Pet dander, dust, pollen, and environmental annoyances like smoke and air pollution are among the common triggers. Most sufferers respond well to symptom management efforts, although there are surgical options that may be discussed.
Common Signs and Symptoms
Because allergic sinusitis produces symptoms similar to non-allergic sinusitis, it can be difficult to tell if allergies are part of the equation. The main difference is that sufferers of the non-allergic version of sinusitis usually do not experience itchiness in the nose, eyes, or throat. Symptoms that could be associated with allergic sinusitis include:
- Recurring or long-lasting nasal congestion and postnasal drip
- Sinus headaches
- Pressure or tenderness in the cheeks, around the nose, or between the eyes
- Diminished sense of smell and/or taste
- Difficulty sleeping and other sleep-related issues
- Increased irritability and other behavioral changes
How Is Allergic Sinusitis Diagnosed?
Diagnosis usually begins with a discussion of your symptoms and a review of your medical history, especially anything to do with known allergies. If it’s suspected you may have an undiagnosed allergy, skin tests may be performed. This process involves the controlled exposure to common allergy-causing substances.
A nasal endoscopy is an effective way to view the inside of the nose and sinus cavities to look for signs of inflammation and abnormalities. This procedure is performed with a lighted, flexible tube inserted through the nostrils. An attached camera improves the clarity of the images produced. A CT scan is another method that may be used to view internal structures so a well-informed diagnosis can be made.
How Might It Be Treated or Managed?
Allergic sinusitis is sometimes manageable by making an effort to avoid known allergy triggers. If, for example, your main allergen is pet dander, you would likely experience fewer symptoms if you make an effort to avoid animals with fur. But not all allergens are easily avoidable. For this reason, you may be advised to manage your symptoms with:
- Saline nasal sprays to rinse your nasal passages
- Over-the-counter decongestants
- OTC pain medications
- Steam inhaler devices to ease nasal congestion
Because inflammation often affects the severity of symptoms, corticosteroid (steroid) nasal sprays may be beneficial. If a bacterial infection is detected, antibiotics will likely be prescribed for a brief period of time to clear it up. If you have allergy triggers that are difficult to avoid, you may be a good candidate for immunotherapy (allergy shots). This treatment involves the controlled exposure to your allergy triggers in a way that’s intended to build up a natural tolerance.
Surgery at UCI’s Sinus Surgery Center is typically not necessary to successfully manage allergic sinusitis. It may, however, become a possibility if conservative symptom management methods aren’t improving your quality of life. Similar to a balloon angioplasty performed on heart patients, a balloon sinuplasty is one option. It involves the use of small balloons to widen the sinus openings. Another option is endoscopic sinus surgery, which is typically done if a blockage or obstruction is discovered.