Sinus troubles that just don’t seem to yield to the reasonable-minded ministrations of reasonable-minded doctors. We keep hearing about this kind of thing. Among friends and family, sinus infections that should just clear up with a little bit of care and treatment often end up becoming lifelong afflictions. Why would this be? Is there something about these people? Does conventional treatment for sinus infection not work with certain people?
Scientists are beginning to study how there might be a kind of colonies of bacteria called biofilms that might be behind all these intractable sinus infections. It’s not that these bacteria cause such terrible infections that our bodies and all the best treatments in the world can never take care of them. It’s just that the body seems sometimes to react to these biofilms in such an over-the-top way that our sinuses get all inflamed. The antibiotics we know of don’t really take care of these biofilms. We need surgery to actually scrape the inflamed tissue away so that our bodies can actually get over the whole thing.
So what makes bacteria difficult to deal with when they are in a kind of film coating our sinuses? Here’s a little secret about how antibiotics work – they don’t actually kill bacteria outright. Instead, they just make it difficult for them to multiply. When bacteria join hands to form a kind of sheet, they stop multiplying. They’re just happy the way they are. When you have bacteria like that, it can be difficult for antibiotics to kill them.
Treatment for sinusitis like this still starts with the regular methods. You give people nasal saline irrigations and hope that when all the mucus is washed out, that the body can somehow recover in peace. Of course, that doesn’t work with the really chronic kind of sinusitis.
The next step forward, when irrigations don’t do the trick, would be to really up the pressure on the bacteria with anti-inflammatory steroidal drugs. You could still get antibiotics to work. But you have to get an actual culture of the bacteria in the biofilm for a doctor to be able to prescribe the right antibiotic.
When these kinds of first-line treatments don’t work for sinus infection, surgery may be the next line of treatment to head for. But if surgery and a thorough cleaning out of all the inflamed tissue still doesn’t cure a patient (if those bacteria really know how to be tenacious), is there still something one can do that’s left? Sometimes, the sinus lining has been in bad shape for so long that it’s lost its ability to recover – even after all the bacteria have been cleared away by surgery. Regular nasal irrigation with anti-inflammatory medication then may be the only thing left to do.
There really is no cure for sinus infection that is truly, truly serious. One can only hope to treat the disease and keep it under control forever. With most people, that works out very well.