Kristin Breath of Fresh Air: Kristin's Sinus Surgery Story

“Just waking up and not feeling sick or sinus pressure, it’s encouraging. It’s exciting to have that relief"

Moorestown mom has sinus surgery to get back into the game

Sinus infections are not uncommon. Most of us will have one, complete the medication prescribed and get back to our lives.

For Kristin, of Moorestown, sinus infections became a chronic condition, disrupting everything from her work, to Saturdays on the soccer and field hockey fields with her kids, to a long-awaited family vacation.

“It was my first vacation in two years. In the middle of the first night there, I woke up with a fever. Monday morning my dad had to find a health care clinic to pick up steroids, antibiotics and rinse. Even though it helped and second part of week was better than first, it was extremely disappointing,” recalls Kristin.

A Cycle of Sick
For a single mom of two active children, Kristin’s chronic illness could not have been more inconvenient. Working full time as a lawyer just added to her concerns because of missed work time.

“If I was exposed to any kind of virus – and the kids bring home everything – it would go right to my sinuses,” she explains. “It would feel like a cold at first, then quickly jump to sinus infection, and then it was back to antibiotics, steroids.”

The culprit: inflammation in the sinuses.

“With sinuses, it can be a plumbing problem. If the sinus doesn’t drain properly, it becomes inflamed and blocked, which leads to infection, which then leads to increased inflammation. It’s a vicious cycle,” says Dean Drezner, MD, board certified otolaryngologist, or ENT (ear, nose and throat physician).

As a result, patients suffering from these symptoms experience ongoing sinus pressure and discomfort, coupled with bouts of full-blown infection that disrupt their lives.

The Risk of Treating the Infection
Like many who have chronic sinus infections, Kristin was regularly taking antibiotics and steroids to treat the problem. Though the treatment helped, it did not come without risk.

“Antibiotics bring their own set of challenges, so we are not quick to prescribe them. Anyone on antibiotics is at risk for c. diff infections. This can cause severe gastrointestinal problems. People may also develop allergies to antibiotics after extended use,” explains Dr. Drezner.

C. difficile colitis is an infection of the colon by the C. difficile bacterium – “bad” bacteria that lives in our colon. Research shows that antibiotics likely prevent normal colonic bacteria – the “good” bacteria – from doing its job to keep C. difficile from multiplying and causing colitis.

Kristin experienced this first hand when she experienced gastrointestinal infection as a result of the antibiotics. This led to her decision to talk to Dr. Drezner about sinus surgery.

Surgical Intervention
Kristin and Dr. Drezner decided sinus surgery would be a good option for her to open the narrow sinus passages that seemed to be the main source of the problem.

For the sinuses to work normally, the mucus that the sinus produces needs to drain. “Many of these sinus problems are associated with an anatomic obstruction. Structures can be narrow, or enlarged causing the obstruction,” says Dr. Drezner.

“I liken the sinuses to a funnel. When the narrow part of the funnel is blocked the sinuses are prone to infection. Surgery allows us to open up the narrow part of the funnel and allow the sinus to properly drain,” he adds.

Typically this surgery is done endoscopically, which means it does not require an incision of the skin. It is a same-day surgery, and patients generally experience some discomfort following surgery, but they are able to be back to work in a couple days.

Now, Kristin has returned to the sidelines, cheering on her kids and breathing easier.

“Just waking up and not feeling sick or sinus pressure, it’s encouraging. It’s exciting to have that relief,” she says.

Avoiding Chronic Infection
While Kristin’s case required surgical intervention, many who are living with sinus problems can help themselves by taking measures to avoid irritating the sinuses. Dr. Drezner offers these suggestions:

Quit smoking. Smoking and second-hand smoke can cause a lot of nasal and sinus inflammation. It can also affect how the nose and sinus can clean themselves.

Check filters. Regularly change your duct filters and have ducts cleaned regularly to minimize allergens.

New flooring. If a lot of dust and old carpeting are in your home, consider changing out flooring to wood floors to minimize accumulation of dust and other irritants.