If you struggle with persistent nasal congestion, facial pain, and pressure--including toothaches and headaches--you may have chronic sinusitis. While the causes of chronic sinusitis are often difficult to understand and may be numerous, recent research indicates that fungal organisms are frequent culprits. For most people, fungal sinus infections don't have long-term health consequences. However, for some individuals, fungal sinusitis can cause serious illness or even death. Below is more information on the types of fungal sinusitis, how to recognize if you might be affected by a dangerous infection, and what you can do to treat fungal sinusitis.
Non-invasive fungal sinusitis
Fungal sinusitis can be categorized as non-invasive and invasive. Fortunately, most fungal sinus infections are non-invasive and limited in their scope. Here are the two most common, non-invasive subtypes:
Allergic fungal sinusitis
The most common form of fungal sinusitis, allergic fungal sinusitis is a reaction by the body's immune system to spores and other fungal material. Symptoms of allergic fungal sinusitis are similar to bacterial sinusitis, but a granular, dark-colored nasal discharge may be a sign that fungi are at work inside the sinuses.
Allergic fungal sinusitis does not spread beyond the confines of the sinus cavities, but it is still a miserable condition for its sufferers. Treatment involves surgical cleaning and long-term follow-up care to prevent its recurrence. Some nasal sprays, such as Dymista, may also help.
Also known as aspergilloma, mycetomas are literally clumps of fungal material that have accumulated over time within the sinus cavities. Mycetomas can cause typical symptoms of sinusitis, but they often cause no symptoms at all. Despite their gruesome-sounding appearance, mycetomas rarely cause significant harm and are easily-removed from the sinuses. Follow-up treatment is also rarely needed.
Invasive fungal sinusitis
Invasive fungal sinusitis is dangerous and can be fatal if not treated promptly. It is capable of rapidly spreading into adjacent tissues, including the brain and eyes. Many of the same fungus species that cause non-invasive sinusitis can cause the invasive form of the condition; however, only individuals with compromised immune systems are susceptible to invasive fungal sinusitis.
That should be reassuring to persons who have normal, healthy immune systems.
However, if you have a compromised immune system, caused by past treatments or current medical conditions, then you will want to treat any sinusitis flare-ups with utmost care. If you develop a dark-colored discharge, cough, fever or substantial facial pain, immediately proceed to a doctor or an emergency room. Treatment will possibly require hospitalization and intensive intervention to prevent it from spreading into critical tissues of the head and face.
How you can prevent fungal sinusitis
While not all fungal sinus infections are preventable, you can take action to reduce your chances of being affected. Below are several practical steps you can take to prevent fungal sinusitis:
Lower levels of indoor humidity - Fungi thrive in damp environments, so lowering the humidity within your home can help reduce the growth of fungi. Humidity can be lessened by running your air conditioner more frequently, using stand-alone dehumidifiers and keeping air circulating. Be careful not to overdo it, though, as extremely dry conditions can damage your sinus tissues and weaken their resistance to fungi.
Promptly address water damage - If your home has experienced some type of water leaks or flooding, then you must repair the damage as soon as possible. Mold can grow quickly behind walls, within insulation and other out-of-sight spaces. Even if water damage doesn't result in structural harm to your home, the hidden mold danger can create a tremendous breeding ground for fungi.
Use high-efficiency particulate air filtering - High-efficiency particulate absorbing (HEPA) filters are the "gold standard" in air purification, and they are capable of reducing mold spores from the atmosphere in your home. Be sure to take a look at the clean air delivery rate (CADR) when shopping for air filters, as the higher the rating, the better, with anything less than 100 being unacceptable.