How Do Rhinologists Diagnose & Treat Sinus Problems?

Sinus problems are a common issue that many people experience in their everyday life. Affecting the empty spaces behind your cheekbones and forehead, sinus problems are usually caused by inflammation or an infection that, when left untreated, can wreak havoc on your health and wellbeing. Thankfully, sinus problems can be treated effectively with the support of a rhinologist — a doctor who specialises in the diagnosis, care and treatment of the nose and sinuses. In this article, we discover how a rhinologist can not only diagnose sinus-related issues but help get rid of them altogether.

Understanding sinus problems

Sinus problems encompass a wide range of conditions that are typically caused by inflammation or infection of your sinuses. These conditions can then lead to a variety of symptoms that significantly impact your health.

Common symptoms of sinus problems include:

  • Facial pain or pressure in your forehead, cheeks or around your eyes
  • Congestion
  • Discoloured or changes to nasal discharge — it can be thick, yellow or green
  • Reduced sense of taste and smell
  • Coughing or a sore throat
  • Fatigue

If you experience any of these symptoms, this indicates that something isn’t quite right with your sinuses. As such, it’s important to identify the root cause.

Some potential causes of sinus problems include:

  • Allergies – allergic reactions to pollen, dust mites, pet dander or environmental factors can trigger inflammation in your sinuses. This can lead to allergic rhinitis (hay fever).
  • Infections – bacterial, fungal or viral infections can lead to acute or chronic sinusitis. Some viral infections, like the common cold, can cause temporary inflammation, while bacterial infections may need to be treated with antibiotics. Sinusitis is a common sinus issue that is caused by infection.
  • Structural abnormalities – a deviated nasal septum (when the wall between your nostrils is off-centre), nasal polyps (growths in your nasal passage) or constricted sinus openings can prevent your sinuses from draining properly. This puts you more at risk of inflammation and infection.
  • Environmental factors – exposure to irritants such as pollution and smoke can trigger sinus inflammation.
  • Immune system disorders – health conditions that weaken your immune system can make you more vulnerable to sinus infections.

Understanding the underlying cause of your sinus problems is essential to ensuring the right method of treatment is provided.

Types of sinusitis

Sinusitis occurs as a result of infection (either bacterial or viral) and causes your sinuses to become inflamed. There are several types of sinusitis, including:

  • Acute sinusitisa short-term condition that lasts up to four weeks, generally occurs following a cold or upper respiratory infection and is typically treated with antibiotics.
  • Recurrent acute sinusitis – a condition defined by multiple episodes of acute sinusitis within the space of a year, often with an underlying cause.
  • Chronic sinusitispersistent inflammation that lasts longer than 12 weeks, even after repeated treatments, that could require surgery to correct the underlying structural issues causing it.
  • Fungal sinusitis – a condition caused when fungi, such as mould, enter your sinuses and cause inflammation.

What does a rhinologist do?

Rhinology is a specialised branch of medicine that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of disorders related to the nose and sinuses.

Rhinologists are doctors who have undergone comprehensive training to gain expertise in dealing with complex nasal and sinus conditions.

Through this training, rhinologists have a deep understanding of the intricate anatomy and physiology of your sinuses, enabling them to carefully diagnose any associated problems.

Using advanced diagnostic techniques, they can see inside your nasal and sinus structures, helping them reach accurate diagnoses. This makes them excellent at managing complex cases such as recurrent sinus infections and nasal structure abnormalities.

As nasal and sinus health is interconnected with several other parts of your body, rhinologists will often collaborate with other specialists to ensure you receive complete care.

What can a rhinologist treat?

Rhinologists can help treat a wide range of sinus-related conditions. For example, this might include:

  • Acute sinusitis
  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Nasal polyps
  • Allergic rhinitis
  • Sinonasal tumours (benign or malignant growths)
  • Deviated septum
  • Conditions that impact your sense of smell
  • Ethmoid sinusitis (inflammation between the eyes)
  • Fungal sinusitis
  • Sinus cysts

Benefits of being treated by a rhinologist

Seeking treatment from a rhinologist provides you with an expert diagnosis and a tailored treatment plan. Rhinologists are trained to accurately diagnose and differentiate the many sinus conditions that develop, meaning you will receive the best treatment for your specific condition.

Using advanced techniques and state-of-the-art equipment also helps minimise any risk and allows rhinologists to perform complicated procedures with the highest level of accuracy and skill. This can then enhance your recovery time and overall results.

Diagnostic techniques for sinus problems

Rhinologists use different diagnostic tools to accurately diagnose sinus problems.

Some diagnostic techniques they use include:

  • Endoscopy this is a key tool in a rhinologist's diagnostic techniques. An endoscopy involves feeding a thin, flexible instrument (called an endoscope) with a camera attached to the end into your nasal passage and sinuses. The camera then relays images back to the rhinologist so they can identify any abnormalities.
  • Imaging scans such as computed tomography (CT) scans these scans provide a clear image of your nasal and sinus anatomy as well as display any abnormalities or problems that need treating.
  • Allergy testing these tests involve skin pricking or blood tests to measure your sensitivity to a specific allergen. In doing so, any allergens impacting your sinuses can then be confirmed and avoided in the future.
  • Physical examinations and assessment of your medical history this is important because it ensures that every aspect of your health is considered when making a diagnosis.

How rhinologists can help with sinus problems

The type of treatment or intervention a rhinologist will recommend really depends on what condition you have.

Generally speaking, medical treatments tend to include:

  • Antibiotics – typically prescribed if you have a bacterial infection
  • Corticosteroids – to reduce inflammation and help manage conditions like chronic sinusitis, nasal polyps or hay fever
  • Nasal irrigation – involves using a saline solution to flush and clear away irritants

Rhinologists can also help with allergy management by recommending medications, immunotherapy and avoidance strategies.

Surgical interventions

In severe cases, surgical interventions like functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS) and balloon sinuplasty can also be used.

FESS is a minimally invasive procedure performed with an endoscope and is used to remove polyps, correct anatomical abnormalities and open any blocked passageways in your sinuses. It is typically used to treat chronic sinusitis that doesn’t respond to other treatments.

Balloon sinuplasty involves inserting a small balloon into your blocked sinus before inflating it to widen it. This procedure is minimally invasive and can be an effective way of relieving both chronic sinusitis and nasal polyps.

Consult a rhinologist at OneWelbeck

When it comes to advanced rhinology and sinus care, OneWelbeck is a name you can trust.

Our experienced rhinologists are leaders in their field and only ever use the latest technology to provide accurate diagnoses, minimally invasive treatments and enhanced results.

Elevate your sinus health by choosing OneWelbeck. Simply contact us today to book a consultation and embark on your journey towards improved sinus health.