Usually, the frontal sinuses, the space between the cheeks, forehead, and eyes, acts as an insulator and humidifier. It helps the head to be lighter, gives resonance to the voices and, in case of a blow to the head, it can even provide a useful cushioning.
But for those who suffer from sinusitis, these small cavities are a source of agony and exhaustion.
In addition to a cough and nasal congestion, those who suffer from it may lose their sense of smell, feel a painful pressure on their face and ears, have pain in their teeth and even experience bad breath. But many people prefer to endure the symptoms instead of seeking treatment.
This according to a survey by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, which found that almost half of people who suffer from sinusitis have their condition misdiagnosed and 36 percent of them do not see a doctor.
“As it is not a fatal condition many people believe that they can treat it themselves. I charge with my medications and my disposable tissues. But it does not help me at all, “says Angel Waldron, spokesperson for the foundation.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that, based on its most recent National Health Interview Survey, about 30 million adults in the United States had been diagnosed with sinusitis, which means 13 percent of the population over 18 years of age.
Simply put, sinusitis is an inflammation of the frontal sinuses. Those who suffer from allergy and asthma are more likely to suffer from it, but it can also be triggered by a cold, a bacterial infection or structural problems.
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, in most cases, sinusitis disappears after two weeks with simple treatments such as decongestants, hot compresses, salt water washes and dehumidifiers. Prolonged sinusitis can be treated with antibiotics or steroids. Those who suffer from allergy and asthma can be prescribed other treatments that help prevent inflammation of the frontal sinuses.
For some people, sinusitis can become chronic, with inflammation and persistent blockage in the cavities. Chronic sinusitis is typically defined as one that lasts for more than three months.
In those cases, surgery may be an option. Thanks to advances in technology, doctors can operate with greater care, precision, and ease, says Dr. Rolando M. Molina, certified otolaryngologist, and partner at South Florida ENT Associates.
“Before, we did not have cameras and sophisticated equipment to treat the condition safely and properly. We only made openings and holes, trusting that the disease would drain, “explains Molina. “Now we have CT scans, and we can know where the disease is hiding and where it is stuck.”
Using computed tomography, doctors can determine if a patient is a candidate for surgery. Then, with the help of the Global Positioning System (GPS), they can trace a course in millimeters, creating a map of frontal sinuses and using endoscopy, performing surgeries as little as possible, he explains.
“The images allow us to go exactly to the breasts that are blocked and not to touch those that are not,” he says.
Once the swelling is removed, says Molina, doctors can draw up a maintenance plan.
Doctors know the operation so well that, in many cases, they can perform it as an outpatient procedure. One of the advances that have dramatically improved the results is the use of balloons, a technique similar to that used by cardiologists in heart surgery.
“Where before you had to open the chest, remove the blocked artery and put a new vein, when angioplasty arrived, you take the blocked artery, and you can eliminate the material that obstructs it,” he explains. “We take the same balloon technique, and we can find the area that has been narrowed or blocked and with the balloon, dilate those frontal sinuses and irrigate them.”
Molina notes that although CT and GPS can help doctors, they may encounter other complications once they begin surgery.
“It’s a surgical roadmap for the planning stages. But when you’re in the operating room looking at the cameras, you can find areas that are not obvious in the tomography, and you have to fix it, “ - he explains. “We can find blockages caused by a polyp or a small tumor. The computed tomography shows the inflammation but not the details. “
However, advances have dramatically changed the way surgery is performed and how patients respond.
“Surgery today was not surgery years ago,” he says.
“Today everything is very technological; we use images and balloons that allow us to operate with the greatest care and the least inconvenience.”