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HIV and Sinus Infections

What Can Be Done about Sinus Infections


Updated June 19, 2014

HIV and sinus infections are common bedfellows. Your head feels congested and full. The pressure behind your eyes makes it hard to concentrate. The pounding in your head and face is relentless. The dreaded sinus infection or sinusitis as it is officially called. One time is enough but unfortunately, people living with HIV are often bothered by many such infections each year. While 30 percent of all people suffer from sinusitis at least once each year, people living with HIV seem to have more frequent and more severe bouts. Why do HIV and sinus infections seem to go together?

What Causes Sinus Infections?

The sinuses are air pockets located inside the bones of the skull. They are located to either side of the nose (maxillary), behind and in between the eyes (ethmoid), in the forehead (frontal), and there is one much further back in the head (sphenoid). These spaces contain mucus that drains by way of small pin holes in the sinuses. As a result of allergies or colds, these small holes get plugged, preventing the mucus from draining properly. As the mucus builds up, pressure builds and causes pain. In addition, the mucus becomes a perfect breeding ground for bacteria to grow, resulting in sinusitis. Acute sinusitis can last four weeks or more while chronic sinusitis can last twelve weeks or more.

Illnesses and Infections Associated with HIV

How Do I Know I Have Sinusitis?

There are several signs and symptoms that indicate you have a sinus infection. Most often people complain of:
  • Pain near the cheek bones, the jaw line and teeth, above and behind the eyes, and in the head.
  • An increase in pain when the doctor taps over the sinuses with his or her fingertips.
  • As the infection worsens, fever may develop along with nasal discharge, head congestion, ear pain, and a diminished sense of smell.

How is Sinusitis Treated?

Acute sinusitis is generally treated with 10 to 14 days of antibiotics. With treatment, the symptoms disappear and antibiotics are no longer required for that episode. Oral and topical decongestants also may be prescribed to alleviate the symptoms. In some people with recurrent or chronic sinus infections, sinus surgery may have to be done to clean out the accumulated mucus and infection and to enlarge the drain hole to allow better mucus drainage.

Antibiotic Fact Sheets

How Can I Relieve the Symptoms of Sinusitis?

Until the sinusitis is gone, the symptoms can be uncomfortable and very annoying. However, there are several ways to ease the symptoms.
  • warm, moist air from a vaporizer
  • warm, moist compresses to painful areas
  • saline nose drops to relieve dryness and congestions
  • decongestants to relieve pressure
  • nasal sprays to relieve nasal congestion (nasal sprays should be used carefully to prevent worsening of symptoms or dependence on the spray - limit their use to no more than 3 days and follow the instructions on the bottle.)

If you think you have problems with recurrent sinus infections or have recurrent headaches, facial pain or other sinusitis symptoms, talk to your doctor. With accurate diagnosis, sinusitis can be treated effectively.

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