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Seek Help for Sinus Pain,
Say Health Center Experts
February 28, 2000

February is Sinus Pain Awareness Month, and Health Center experts are urging people to seek help for sinus pain.

Sinus infections are the most common, chronic medical condition in the U.S. today, affecting more than 37 million Americans. Yet many people confuse painful sinusitis symptoms with recurrent colds or allergies, and do not seek help from medical professionals.

"If a person suspects they might have sinusitis, it's important that they seek medical attention," says ear, nose and throat specialist Gerald Leonard, of the UConn Health Center. "Acute sinusitis may require treatment with antibiotics, and chronic sinusitis can require a range of different, and more aggressive treatments. The good news is that help is available."

Sinusitis is caused by anything that blocks sinus drainage or prevents cilia - tiny hairs inside the sinus - from sweeping properly. Factors that can lead to acute sinusitis include:

  • Colds: Most acute sinus infections develop at the end of a head cold. Cold viruses don't cause bacterial sinusitis, but they set the stage by causing sinus openings to swell shut.

  • Allergies: Allergic substances can cause swelling of the nasal passages and block the openings between the sinuses and the nose.

  • Smoking: Tobacco smoke can inhibit mucus drainage.

Factors that can lead to chronic sinusitis include:

  • Fungal infections;

  • Nasal polyps;

  • Insufficient opening between the sinuses and the nose;

  • Deviated septum.

Treatment for chronic sinusitis may include a range of medications, nasal sprays and/or surgery.

Sinus surgery has become more safe and precise through the advent of new, endoscopic technologies, says Leonard. Last year, Health Center surgeons began using a state-of-the-art, image-guided for delicate sinus operations: the InstaTrak System. "This system gives us a computer-guided navigation tool," he says, "and an added safety measure when performing surgery within the nose and close to the brain and eye."

For more information about sinus care at the UConn Health Center call (800) 535-6232 or (860) 679-7692.

Maureen McGuire