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When Sinus Issues Require a Doctor

By Paul Rothbart

Sinus problems can be irritating and painful. A constantly running nose, difficulty breathing, and headaches are common symptoms that can make getting through the day difficult. A sinus issue can also interfere with sleep, which is also bad for your overall health. Allergies can cause sinus problems, as can environmental issues. Sinus issues are often temporary and disappear within a few hours. However, chronic sinusitis is more serious and usually requires a doctor visit. Here is some information on how to know when you need medical attention. 

What Causes Sinusitis

There are open areas in the skull, called sinus cavities. Their purpose is to make the front of the skull lighter so you don't strain your neck trying to keep your head upright. The sinus cavities are lined with tissue that creates passages that connect to your ears, nose, and throat. When the passages become inflamed, they block off the openings to the sinus cavities. This causes pressure which can bring on pain, block nasal breathing, and cause a runny nose. Hydration, rest, and over-the-counter medications can bring relief. When sinusitis lasts three months or more, the condition is chronic and requires a visit to a physician.


There are distinct symptoms that connect to chronic sinusitis. The primary ones are:

  • Postnasal down the back of the throat
  • Swelling and pain around the eyes, nose, and cheeks
  • Inflammation of the nasal passages
  • Runny nose with a thick, dark discharge
  • Diminished senses of taste and smell

Other symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Cough and clogged throat
  • Earache
  • Pain in the teeth and upper jaw
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Bad breath

When You Need a Doctor

Chronic sinusitis should be diagnosed and treated by a doctor. Signs that indicate you should make an appointment with your physician are:

  • Your sinusitis has lasted more than 10 days
  • You've had sinusitis several times and it has not responded to treatment
  • You symptoms persist after seeing a doctor

If you experience these signs you may have an infection or serious condition and should see a doctor immediately.

  • Stiffness in neck
  • Double vision or any impairment of vision
  • Fever
  • Confusion
  • Swollen red eyes
  • Severe headaches
  • Swelling of the forehead


There are steps you can take to help prevent sinus problems. Dry air can be a cause. Use a humidifier to keep moisture in your air, especially when sleeping. Avoid cigarette smoke and other contaminants in the air. If you smoke, consider quitting. If you have allergies, take steps to manage them. You can talk to your doctor for suggestions on how to do this. It's also important to take steps to avoid infections of the upper respiratory system. Washing your hands frequently and using hand sanitizer are very helpful. 

Sinus problems can be painful and distressing. It is important to know when to see a doctor. Don't hesitate to visit your physician if you show these symptoms. It's all a part of taking care of your health.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Concord, N.C.

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