05/23/2013 05:35 EDT | Updated 07/23/2013 05:12 EDT

Bad Allergies? You Could Have Sinusitis

USA, New Jersey, Jersey City, Woman blowing nose
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USA, New Jersey, Jersey City, Woman blowing nose

Congestion, difficulty breathing, facial pain, and fatigue are all signs that allergy season is upon us...or so we think. For many Canadians, these symptoms indicate sinusitis rather than allergies.

Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinuses that affects approximately five per cent of Canadians. It is more prevalent than heart disease and asthma, has a greater impact on quality of life than chronic back pain or congestive heart failure and can be quite debilitating.

Differentiating between sinusitis and allergies can be difficult, but a visit to a doctor can lead to a diagnosis and proper treatment.

The following will help you tell the difference between allergies and sinusitis:

Allergy Signs

  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Clear or whitish nasal drip
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • A burning sensation in the eyes or nose

Sinusitis Signs

  • Facial and/or teeth pain
  • Tenderness and swelling around the eyes, cheeks, nose, and forehead
  • Sinus pressure or congestion
  • Difficulty breathing through the nose
  • Loss of the sense of smell or taste
  • Sinus headache

Sinusitis is often acute, but if symptoms last longer than 8-12 weeks it could be chronic. While medication may help some Canadians relieve their symptoms, it offers no relief for approximately 60 per cent of chronic sinusitis sufferers.

The good news? A primary care doctor or Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist can help. If you have chronic sinusitis and you don't respond to medication there are some procedures that you may be a candidate for. One of these procedures is called Balloon Sinuplasty (BSP). BSP is a short procedure that uses innovative technology and is performed at an outpatient surgical centre as opposed to in a hospital. It provides long-term relief from sinus symptoms and significantly improves quality of life.

One of my patients has suffered from chronic sinusitis as long as she can remember, with symptoms including facial pain and tenderness, headaches, difficulty breathing, and sleep disturbances. After many unsuccessful treatments, she underwent BSP which has made a tremendous impact on her life. I'm pleased to say that she has been clear of the majority of her sinusitis symptoms since the procedure.

Quick facts about Balloon Sinuplasty:

  • It is performed in an outpatient surgical facility and in selected cases can be done under local anesthetic
  • A catheter-based balloon is guided into one or several sinuses and the balloon is dilated to widen the sinus cavity and allow for better sinus drainage and function
  • Procedure time ranges from ten to 45 minutes
  • Patients experience minimal bleeding and low post-operative pain and can return to normal activities quickly

To learn more about Balloon Sinuplasty visit or call the Centric Health Sinus Centre at 1-855-SINUS-99.

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