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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.
Dallas Breathe Free Sinus & Allergy Centers' Dr. Monty Trimble voiced his concerns about the overuse of antibiotics, leading to the development of antibiotic resistance, when he spoke with SW Dallas News.
"As you take antibiotics, it's going to select for bacteria that are already resistant to the antibiotics, and because you've killed the normal bacteria that are susceptible to the antibiotic, now you've got an over-proliferation of the resistant organisms," Trimble said. "And over time you'll find that these resistant organisms have become the new bacteria that they've now replaced. So instead of having normal staph that everyone knows about, now you have resistant versions of staph that tend to also be more aggressive.
"I think it's very, very unfortunate that we have overused antibiotics when we should have been looking for other ways to address problems that don't need antibiotics. And if you look at chronic rhinosinusitis vs. acute bacterial rhinosinusitis, using antibiotics at all for chronic rhinosinusitis is questionable at best."
According to WebMD, 90% of adults who are diagnosed with acute sinusitis -- a sinus infection lasting less than four weeks -- are prescribed antibiotics. Sinus infection symptoms can include nasal congestion, headaches, coughing, facial pain or discomfort and nasal drainage. Sinus infections that last for more than 12 weeks are typically diagnosed as chronic sinusitis.
Overuse of antibiotics has been linked to alterations to gut microbiota, which can increase the risk of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, according to the American Heart Association. Overusing antibiotics can also increase the risk of premature death.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who develop resistance to antibiotics 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 tends to be recommended after other treatments have been ineffective. The procedure is fairly straightforward, complications are minimal and no cutting and/or removal of bones or tissue is needed, according to Healthline. The procedure is also a good 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 into the patient's nose before guiding the balloon to the blockage and inflating it. The balloon helps to clear the passageway, so that the sinuses can properly drain, alleviating congestion and allowing the patient to breathe more effectively.
If you've been experiencing chronic sinus infections, take this Sinus Self-Assessment Quiz.