Open Your Airways and Breathe Better

June 10, 2014

James McIlwaine, MD.

Chronic sinusitis can cause nasal passages to swell, making it hard to breathe and leading to facial pain, headaches and sinus infections. The good news is that sinusitis can be treated.

“Sinusitis is triggered by countless causes, from allergies and infections, to polyps and other medical conditions,” said Mercy Clinic Otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist) James McIlwaine, MD. “Symptoms come and go for some people, but for others, they seem to never go away and they can be miserable.”

These days, over-the-counter medications are doing wonders to ease symptoms and noninvasive procedures, like balloon sinuplasty, have been developed to reduce sinus inflammation and pain-causing pressure.

Common symptoms of sinusitis include drippy nose, congestion, pressure around the eyes, cheeks, nose or forehead, cough, reduced sense of smell and taste. Sinusitis can include ear pain, headache, bad breath, jaw and teeth discomfort, fever and fatigue.

“Depending on the severity, symptoms can be managed with over-the-counter medications and lifestyle changes,” said Dr. McIlwaine. “Sinus rinses, nasal sprays, pain and sinus medications are readily available. Those medications along with allergy management can achieve comfort for many sufferers.”

If those measures fail, symptoms are frequent or bouts of sinusitis are causing sinus infections, it is time to see a doctor for more serious relief.

“Chronic sinusitis scars nasal tissue, and that makes blockages tougher to treat,” said Dr. McIlwaine. “Physicians can diagnose blockages, prescribe more appropriate medications and find out if you’re a candidate for different procedures for opening sinus passageways.”

In addition to traditional sinus surgery, the physicians of Mercy Clinic ENT/ Otolaryngology Washington offer balloon sinuplasty. This 20-minute, in-office procedure uses a catheter devise and a balloon to open sinus passageways. Even people with polyps and deviated septum may be eligible for the procedure.

“People with chronic sinusitis have great results with sinuplasty. It’s safe and there’s no cutting, so recovery is fast and the benefits are high. Most of our patients reduce or go off their sinus medications shortly after having the procedure,” said Dr. McIlwaine.

What separates balloon sinuplasty from surgery is that the balloon moves bone and tissue while surgery cuts and removes them.

People with severe polyps and severe deviated septum may require traditional surgery to open passageways and resolve their sinusitis issues.

“Sinusitis affects about 35 million people a year and medicine is keeping up with the demand,” said Dr. McIlwaine. “How we treat it depends on how often it affects you, how severe your symptoms are and what’s causing the blockage. The good news is that there are more options now to consider.”  

Dr. McIlwaine is board certified in Otolaryngology. He practices with board certified otolaryngologist Mark A. Szewczyk, MD, at Mercy Clinic ENT/Otolaryngology Washington, 901 Patients First Drive in Washington. Both doctors perform balloon sinuplasty. For more information, or to make an appointment, call 636-390-1570.


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