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• Antibiotics are typically used as an initial treatment for sinus infections.
• Potential health risks associated with ongoing antibiotic use include cardiovascular disease and cancer.
• Balloon sinuplasty is an alternative treatment option for chronic sinusitis.
SoCal Breathe Free Sinus & Allergy Centers' Dr. Matt Hershcovitch warned against sinusitis patients being treated repeatedly with antibiotics when he talked to West LA Times.
"There's already significant amounts of antibiotic immunity and resistance," Hershcovitch said. "The bacteria are selected for this resistance, because of overuse of antibiotics. The problem that occurs is when you have one of these highly resistant bacteria that then starts growing very fast, growing very aggressively in the sinuses, you end up with very few tools at your disposal to treat this problem. Also, because you now selected for a highly resistant virulent bacteria that's resistant to most of your antibiotics, your surrounding structures are at risk as well, and this creates a very dangerous situation."
"When you have poorly controlled sinus disease and sinusitis, the structure surrounding the sinuses are often invaded by this bacteria, more specifically, the eyes and the brain. This can create some terrible complications, including orbital abscesses, vision damage, blindness, as well as meningitis, brain abscesses. I've even seen people die from this. It is a terrible thing, especially when you think that this could have been prevented," Hershcovitch said.
According to WebMD, 90% of adults diagnosed with acute sinusitis -- an infection lasting less than 4 weeks -- are prescribed antibiotics. Symptoms can include nasal congestion, headaches, coughing, facial pain or discomfort, and nasal drainage. Chronic sinusitis is defined as a sinus infection lasting more than 12 weeks.
Antibiotic overuse has been linked to alterations to a patient's gut microbiota, which can increase the risk of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, according to the American Heart Association. Antibiotic overuse can also increase the risk of premature death.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who develop antibiotic resistance can face increased risk if they experience infections related to other medical procedures, such as joint replacements, organ transplants, and diabetes treatment.
An alternative treatment for chronic sinusitis is balloon sinuplasty, which is usually recommended after other treatments have proven ineffective. The procedure is fairly straightforward, complications are minimal, and no cutting and/or removal of bones or tissue is needed. The procedure is also seen as a preferable option for patients who don't need anything removed from the sinuses, according to WebMD.
The process involves the doctor putting a thin tube with a small balloon attached to one end into the patient's nose before guiding said balloon to the blockage and inflating it. The balloon helps to clear the passageway so that the sinuses can properly drain, alleviating congestion.
If you're experiencing chronic sinus infections and want to learn about treatment options, please take this Sinus Self-Assessment Quiz.