Untreated sinus infections can lead to bronchitis, asthma, worsening of asthma, chronic cough, ear infections and throat infections. Continued infection also leads to swelling of the nasal membranes, nasal obstruction, and mouth breathing. The nasal congestion can cause snoring and lead to sleep apnea as well.
If acute sinusitis is not treated, it can lead to a low grade chronic infection. Chronic sinusitis is more likely to result in the development of nasal polyps. The presence of nasal polyps makes treatment of the sinusitis more difficulty and the polyps will ultimately cause complete nasal blockage.
In severe cases, sinus infections will spread into the blood stream, or spread to adjacent structures such as the brain and eyes. Such spread of infection could lead to blindness or double vision and can be life threatening.
Your physician will ask you questions about your symptoms such as how often your headaches occur, the type of mucus secretions you are experiencing, and whether you have any allergies.
He will examine your ears, throat, and nose looking for signs of polyps, deviated septum, or infection.
He may also use an endoscope to see into the sinus openings. Nasal endoscopy is performed in the office with a small endoscope that is inserted into the nostrils. The nose is first treated with a spray to shrink the lining of the nose, in order to see further back and to allow room for the scope. The nose is then treated with a numbing spray (lidocaine) so the scope exam does not hurt.
Nasal endoscopy can quickly determine the presence of redness, swelling, abnormal drainage, polyps, and other abnormalities. In some cases, a CT (computed tomography Xray) of the sinuses will aid in the diagnosis of sinusitis.