Nagging Cold May Mean Sinusitis

If you're having trouble shaking a cough, a stuffy nose, or a headache, you may be dealing with more than the common cold. CBS News Health Correspondent Dr. Emily Senay reports.

Although it may seem like a cold, sniffling and sneezing that persists for more than a week may be the symptoms of sinusitis, an inflammation of the sinuses.

"You just want relief from the pressure," says Felicia Smith.

Smith is one of the more than 50 percent of American adults who suffer from the condition. For her, the sinus headaches are the worst aspect of the illness.

"The headache is like a throbbing pain where I have to lay down to get some rest or try to go to sleep," Smith says. "It's like someone just constantly beating you right in the forehead."

Sinuses consist of four air-filled cavities located in between and below the eyes. When sinusitis occurs, the lining of these cavities becomes inflamed, making it difficult to drain mucous from the area. The heavy congestion makes breathing through the nose difficult.

Bacterial infections from colds are the number one cause of sinusitis, but allergies and inhaling irritating substances can also lead to the condition.

Sinusitis symptoms include stuffiness, pressure, pain under the eyes and in the forehead, and post-nasal drip. Acute sinusitis may be accompanied by a green or gray discharge from the nose, a swelling around the eyes, high fever, and painful headaches. Often these cases signal severe infection and should be looked at by a doctor immediately.

Treatment for acute cases can include antibiotics as well as other medications. If you have a mild case, most doctors recommend trying over-the-counter medications before coming to see them.

If antibiotics don't help and the condition re-occurs often, surgery may be necessary.

Reported by Dr. Emily Senay