Sinus infections caused by bacteria generally pose no major health hazards apart from them becoming painful and uncomfortable. If they become severe enough they can be easily resolved through the use of antibiotics. Sometimes, however, sinusitis can turn into a very serious problem that can lead to complications.
Brain infection – certain types of sinusitis like sphenoid or frontal sinusitis can lead to anaerobic bacterial infection which can travel either through the blood vessels or bones to the brain. Meningitis, abscesses and other grave conditions can ensue. When brain infection occurs the patient may experience visual problems, altered consciousness, headaches and mild personality changes that can lead to seizures, coma and eventually death.
Blood clot – This can occur due to frontal or ethmoid sinusitis. When the sinus area develops a blood clot, it usually forms around the top or front of the face with symptoms such as swelling of the eyelid and its eventual drooping. The pupils may also become dilated and fixed. Initially, these symptoms affect one side of a patient’s face but eventually they spread out to affect both sides.
Eye socket infection – This is also called orbital infection and it entails the swelling and eventual drooping of the eyelid. This condition is the result of ethmoid sinusitis although it rarely occurs. The symptoms may be similar to those of blood clots. The danger with this type of infections is that the patient risks the loss of movement in one eye plus the added pressure on the optic nerve can lead permanent blindness to the affected eye. Other symptoms include severe illness and fever.
Osteomyelitis – This type of sinusitis complication is seen more among adolescent males who have acute frontal sinusitis. Osteomyelitis or infection of the bones usually affect the facial bones particularly the ones on the forehead and can cause the patient to experience fever, headaches, and a condition termed Pott’s puffy tumor which is kind of a soft swelling over the bone.
Increased Asthma Severity
There is no clear connection between asthma and sinusitis. Some experts have suggested that there is a shared or causal connection between asthma and sinusitis. Successful resolutions of both chronic sinusitis and allergic rhinitis in asthmatic children have also seen the reduction of asthma symptoms in these children. Doctors often include asthma treatment along with treating bacterial sinusitis in asthmatic patients although the infection must be treated first before any asthma treatment can become effective.
Lowered quality of life
Fatigue, pain and other chronic sinusitis symptoms can greatly impact the sufferer’s quality of life. Sinusitis can lead to absences at school or work, impair normal activity and can cause emotional distress. Statistics have shown that on average people with sinusitis misses around 4 work days per year; sinusitis is also included in top 10 medical conditions that most harmfully affect US employers.
Linda Lesperance is a licensed acupuncturist and the founder of The Lotus Center of Oriental Medicine in Boca Raton, FL.