Bronchitis Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors & More

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of your bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from your lungs. People who have bronchitis often cough up thickened mucus, which can be discolored. Bronchitis may be either acute or chronic.

Often developing from a cold or other respiratory infection, acute bronchitis is very common. Chronic bronchitis, a more serious condition, is a constant irritation or inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes, often due to smoking.

Acute bronchitis, also called a chest cold, usually improves within a week to 10 days without lasting effects, although the cough may linger for weeks.

However, if you have repeated bouts of bronchitis, you may have chronic bronchitis, which requires medical attention. Chronic bronchitis is one of the conditions included in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

For either acute bronchitis or chronic bronchitis, signs and symptoms may include:

  • Cough
  • Production of mucus (sputum), which can be clear, white, yellowish-gray or green in color — rarely, it may be streaked with blood
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Slight fever and chills
  • Chest discomfort

If you have acute bronchitis, you might have cold symptoms, such as a mild headache or body aches. While these symptoms usually improve in about a week, you may have a nagging cough that lingers for several weeks.

Chronic bronchitis is defined as a productive cough that lasts at least three months, with recurring bouts occurring for at least two consecutive years.

If you have chronic bronchitis, you’re likely to have periods when your cough or other symptoms worsen. At those times, you may have an acute infection on top of chronic bronchitis.

When to see a doctor
See your doctor if your cough:

  • Lasts more than three weeks
  • Prevents you from sleeping
  • Is accompanied by fever higher than 100.4 F (38 C)
  • Produces discolored mucus
  • Produces blood
  • Is associated with wheezing or shortness of breath

Acute bronchitis is usually caused by viruses, typically the same viruses that cause colds and flu (influenza). Antibiotics don’t kill viruses, so this type of medication isn’t useful in most cases of bronchitis.

The most common cause of chronic bronchitis is cigarette smoking. Air pollution and dust or toxic gases in the environment or workplace also can contribute to the condition.

Risk factors
Factors that increase your risk of bronchitis include:

  • Cigarette smoke. People who smoke or who live with a smoker are at higher risk of both acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis.
  • Low resistance. This may result from another acute illness, such as a cold, or from a chronic condition that compromises your immune system. Older adults, infants and young children have greater vulnerability to infection.
  • Exposure to irritants on the job. Your risk of developing bronchitis is greater if you work around certain lung irritants, such as grains or textiles, or are exposed to chemical fumes.
  • Gastric reflux. Repeated bouts of severe heartburn can irritate your throat and make you more prone to developing bronchitis.

Although a single episode of bronchitis usually isn’t cause for concern, it can lead to pneumonia in some people. Repeated bouts of bronchitis, however, may mean that you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

To reduce your risk of bronchitis, follow these tips:

  • Avoid cigarette smoke. Cigarette smoke increases your risk of chronic bronchitis.
  • Get vaccinated. Many cases of acute bronchitis result from influenza, a virus. Getting a yearly flu vaccine can help protect you from getting the flu. You may also want to consider vaccination that protects against some types of pneumonia.
  • Wash your hands. To reduce your risk of catching a viral infection, wash your hands frequently and get in the habit of using alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
  • Wear a surgical mask. If you have COPD, you might consider wearing a face mask at work if you’re exposed to dust or fumes, and when you’re going to be among crowds, such as while traveling.


Sleep Restriction: Why Sleeping Less May Help You Sleep Better

When I treat someone for chronic insomnia, the number one recommendation I give them is to spend less time in bed. Say what? How could less time in bed lead to better sleep?

After a rough night’s sleep we often sleep in, go to bed earlier, or take a nap. These understandable behaviors have two big downsides:

First, they interfere with your circadian rhythm, which tells your body when to expect sleep. Additionally, they lower your “hunger” for sleep come bedtime.

For example, imagine you go to bed at 10:00 p.m. and don’t fall asleep until 1:00 a.m.; when your alarm goes off at 6:00 a.m., you reset it for 8:00. If you try to go to bed at 10:00 that night, you’ll have been awake for only 14 hours, so it’s unlikely you’ll fall asleep quickly.

Lying in bed awake will also give you hours to feel anxious and irritated about your sleep. As a result, your brain will start to link “bed” with “anxious and awake,” further reducing your chances of sleeping well.

In order to fall asleep quickly and sleep soundly, we need to match our time in bed with the amount of time we’re able to sleep—an approach called “Sleep Restriction,” though I prefer the friendlier-sounding “Sleep Scheduling.” It’s a core part of cognitive behavioral therapy, the first-line treatment for insomnia. Here’s how to do it:

1. Track your sleep for one week; for each night, calculate how many hours you spent in bed and subtract the time you were awake in that window. For example, if you were in bed from 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. (9 hours) and it took you 2 hours to fall asleep, your sleep time for that night is 7 hours.

2. Calculate your average sleep time for the week, which is how much sleep your body is capable of at this point.

3. Determine your wake-up time based on when you need to be up for the day.

4. Subtract your average sleep time from your wake-up time; this is your bedtime. For example, if you can sleep 7 hours per night and need to be up at 6:00 a.m., your bedtime would be 11:00 p.m..

5. Follow your sleep schedule every night for a week, continuing to track your sleep. The more consistent you are, the faster your sleep will improve.

6. Reassess after one week. If you’re sleeping 85-90% of the time you’re in bed, start going to bed 15 minutes earlier for a week.

7. Repeat step 6 if you continue to feel like you need more sleep. If your sleep starts to fall apart, reduce your time in bed to an amount that was working.

Sleep scheduling is a powerful way to align your circadian rhythm and your sleep drive, your two best friends for sleeping well. It can be hard at first as your body adjusts, but the people I’ve worked with typically tell me that restful, restorative sleep is well worth the effort.


10 Simple Ways to Make Life at Home Easier with Ankylosing Spondylitis

Unfortunately, your daily responsibilities won’t just go away because you’re dealing with ongoing back pain and mobility issues.

But as someone living with ankylosing spondylitis, you can make changes to your lifestyle and home to ease your symptoms and prevent disease progression.

Consider these 10 simple ways to make your home life easier so you can take care of your house, your family, and, most importantly, your health.

1. Designate a relaxing space in your home
It can be difficult to relax at home if you’re surrounded by noise and clutter. Try to mimic relaxing spaces you’ve been to by recreating them in your own home.

You could do this to a whole room, a part of your bedroom, or even a portion of your outside space. Make this area your own and come to it every single day, even if it’s only for five minutes at a time.

Your place of relaxation should offer somewhere to sit and de-stress. You can diffuse essential oils, play soft music, or whatever makes you feel calm. The key to making this space truly relaxing is to make sure you actually want to retreat to it.

2. Rearrange your pantry and fridge
Your diet is important for several reasons. Eat anti-inflammatory foods like whole, plant-based foods and lean protein like fish to help with your symptoms. A healthy diet can also help you lose excess pounds that could be placing unwanted pressure on your already-sensitive joints.

It’s important that you’re able to access healthy foods easily, and they’re not hiding behind chips or cookies. Reorganize your pantry and refrigerator by making sure your healthy food items are within reach. Place fruits, veggies, and grains in clear containers that you can easily see and open.

It can also be helpful to get single-size servings ready for yourself at the beginning of each week. The convenience and visibility of your healthy foods are key when your symptoms are flaring up.

Also, put your food items around the same level as your upper torso so you don’t have to do any unnecessary stretching and bending.

3. Make meal prep and cooking a family affair
If you’re the one who’s typically in charge of the family meals, don’t hesitate to enlist your family for help.

Even simple tasks, such as washing fresh veggies, can become difficult if you’re in pain. Having a family member help out can give you more time for yourself and allow you to save your energy for other tasks.

Once your family gets the hang of it, this can become a fun bonding experience. You’ll teach your kids life skills while boosting their confidence, too.

4. Invest in a standing office desk
If you work from home or sit at a desk for long periods of time, this can be doing more harm than good to your body.

Sitting for short periods of time may provide ease and comfort in the moment, but it also places pressure on the joints in your lower back and hips. This could make your symptoms worse.

You might find it helpful to have the option to stand at your home office desk. You can alternate between sitting and standing when you have to work. Explore your options — you don’t necessarily have to buy the most expensive desk on the market to gain more comfort.

5. Sit on cushions whenever possible
When you need to sit, one key to comfort is using posture techniques that a physical therapist can teach you.

You should also consider sitting up on cushions to take away some of the strain in your lower back. If you’re short on comfortable cushions, even a couple of folded towels will help take the pressure off your joints.

As you get stronger, you may consider investing in stabilizing balls and discs designed for chairs.

6. Use shoe horns so you don’t have to bend over
Something as simple as taking off and putting on your shoes can become excruciating when you have ankylosing spondylitis.

Shoe horns, especially those with long handles, can help you with this process. These devices also take pressure off your hips and lower back joints because you don’t have to bend over to use them.

You can find shoe horns of various sizes at your local drugstore.

7. Use reaching aids to save your joints
Reaching aids help you grab objects that you might otherwise need to stretch to reach.

These types of mobility devices can help you stay active around the house without assistance. More importantly, they can help take the strain off the joints in your back so your pain and swelling don’t become worse.

Reaching aids can be found at drugstores and medical supply stores, and they come in a range of lengths.

8. Install bars and rails in the bathroom
Getting up and down from the toilet or bathtub can become difficult. Squatting and lifting when you have ankylosing spondylitis can be painful, and puts extra strain on your joints.

Installing handrails and bars can help you manage these tasks more easily.

9. Let technology be your friend
Advances in technology, such as home appliances, have changed the way people work and play. Many of these can help with the daily challenges of ankylosing spondylitis.

Self-moving vacuums that run off your Wi-Fi can save your back from the pull and strain of a traditional vacuum cleaner. Blenders and other chopping devices can save your shoulders from cutting up fruits and veggies for your meals.

You can even time your lights, air conditioner, and heater from your phone without having to keep bending, lifting, and standing. Research your options to see how simple changes in your home may work to your advantage.

10. Delegate chores to family members or ask friends for help
All of the above devices can help your mobility, but they can’t help you with the chores that need to be done around the house.

It may be time to explain the severity of your condition to your family and enlist their help by delegating the chores. You can also ask friends and loved ones for help with activities that require a lot of lifting or bending.

Don’t feel guilty about asking. Having the help of your loved ones will keep you mobile and pain-free.

When you have ankylosing spondylitis, tasks like cleaning your home, cooking, and putting on shoes can seem impossible to complete. They might be more difficult, but with some modifications, they can still be done. Figure out which tasks are most challenging for you, and then try making simple changes to ease your pain.


5 Signs That You’re Burned Out

Burnout has become one of the buzzwords for the 21st century. People from all walks of life are talking about burnout and its impact. Those who experience burnout report a loss of enthusiasm, feelings of pessimism, and a low sense of personal accomplishment. These feelings can show up in a work or home environment, or both.

Research tells us that burnout negatively impacts both mental and physical health – and that the problem is widespread.

A 2007 study from the American Psychological Association revealed that 75% of Americans suffer from stress-related symptoms, both physical and psychological, in any given month.

Does any of this ring a bell? If you’re concerned that you may be suffering from burnout, here are 5 signs to look for (complete with handy acronym):

  • Pain – Multiple recurring physical symptoms like headaches, stomach aches, muscle aches
  • Anger – Feeling angry and irritable
  • Indifferent – Loss of motivation, drive, and interest
  • Negative – Feeling pessimistic, cynical
  • Tired – Physical and emotional fatigue

If you’re not sure but concerned, take a moment and, using the PAINT acronym, think about your level of stress at home, work, school, and social settings.

If you believe you are burned out, you may want to seek professional help. See your family healthcare provider or a mental health specialist if any of the PAINT symptoms have been present for more than two weeks and if the symptoms have impaired your ability to function normally.

No matter what, you should evaluate your level of self-care: how well are you taking care of yourself and your personal needs? Don’t be too hard on yourself if you feel your self-care routine is lacking. Most of us leave plenty of room for improvement in this department.

If you have no idea how to improve your self-care practices, start by focusing on these main areas: exercise, mindfulness, sleep, socialization, and nutrition. Research has shown that healthy habits in these areas can have both physical and mental benefits.

To combat burnout, here are specific practices in each of the 5 key self-care areas:

  • Exercise – at least 30-minutes per day (it’s okay to break it down into smaller blocks of time)
  • Mindfulness – at least 10-minutes per day (consider using an app as there are many available)
  • Sleep – set and abide by a regular bedtime even on the weekends
  • Socialization – connect with family and/or friends daily
    Nutrition – eliminate processed foods and keep a food diary

Be careful not to pick and choose from this list – do your best to implement all five of these wellness practices to improve your wellness and decrease your level of stress. Keep PAINT in mind when you feel stressed and put your wellness practices into action.


5 Self-Care Tips for Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis treatment involves medications and therapies that help prevent your condition from getting worse over time. It also helps preserve flexibility and range of motion.

But between keeping up with your appointments, work, family, and other commitments, it’s easy to neglect taking care of yourself. Self-care is a crucial component of ankylosing spondylitis treatment.

Learn more about the best ways you can take care of yourself as you work through your ankylosing spondylitis symptoms and plan of care.

1. Exercise regularly
Regular exercise is key to any healthy lifestyle plan. Despite the pain and stiffness that you’re experiencing right now, getting some exercise is important.

Regular movement helps maintain flexibility and reduces stiffness and pain. Even a few short minutes at a time can help.

Your doctor, physical therapist, or occupational therapist may have specific exercise recommendations based on the severity of your symptoms.

If you’re looking for exercises to do at home, focus on workouts that are low-impact, such as walking and swimming. Aquatic exercise allows for increased range of motion in your joints, without the effect of weight bearing. When performed in warm water, it can also increase blood flow. This can help reduce inflammation.

Also, consider exercises that improve flexibility, such as tai chi and yoga. Regular workouts can be important if your doctor recommends losing weight to improve your condition.

2. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet
Many experts recommend an anti-inflammatory diet or a Mediterranean diet for overall health. Not only do anti-inflammatory diets decrease inflammation in the body, but they also reduce your risk for heart disease.

When it comes to ankylosing spondylitis, you’ll find that eating anti-inflammatory foods can improve your symptoms in the long-term.

An anti-inflammatory diet mainly consists of plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, as well as moderate amounts of grains and lentils. This type of diet also emphasizes seafood over dairy and meat. Mediterranean diets also include a lot of heart-healthy olive oils.

If you’re thinking about transforming your diet to help reduce your symptoms, you should also avoid inflammatory foods. This includes sugar, trans fats, red meat, processed foods, and fast food items.

3. Make sleep a priority
Sleep is another important part of health. Inflammation can take place in a sleep-deprived body, making pain, stiffness, and fatigue worse. Plus, a lack of sleep can lead to reduced exercise, more stress, and poor eating choices.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least seven hoursTrusted Source of sleep per night for adults. If you’re over the age of 60, you may need seven to nine hours a night. If your current sleep pattern falls short of this amount, consider going to bed a bit earlier each night until you’ve hit your goal.

Ankylosing spondylitis can leave you feeling fatigued in the middle of the day, especially when you’re feeling stiff and in pain. While tempting, try to avoid daytime naps. These can throw off your sleeping schedule at night.

4. Stop drinking and smoking
Alcohol consumption isn’t advised for people with ankylosing spondylitis because it can lead to more inflammation.

Smoking also presents challenges for people with ankylosing spondylitis. As your condition progresses, you may develop weaker ribs, which can affect your breathing. If you smoke on top of this, your breathing difficulties may be even worse. Smoking also triggers inflammation.

Talk to your doctor about ways you can stop drinking and smoking. You’ll improve your quality of life while also decreasing ankylosing spondylitis progression.

5. Find ways to reduce stress
Stress doesn’t discriminate. When you have ankylosing spondylitis, stressors related to work, childcare, school, and other commitments can make your symptoms worse.

Stress can increase inflammation. ResearchTrusted Source shows that prolonged stress and inflammation may also lead to chronic illnesses later in life. Since inflammation is one of the precursors to ankylosing spondylitis, it’s even more important to reduce stress in your life.

While you can’t skip all your commitments and responsibilities, you can find ways to reduce stress every day. Even a few minutes a day can help.

Here are some simple ways you can help yourself de-stress:

  • Meditate daily for 5 to 10 minutes at a time.
  • Take up a yoga practice.
  • Go for a walk outside.
  • Spend time in nature.
  • Read a book.
  • Take a warm bubble bath.
  • Delegate chores and assignments to family and friends.

Keeping up with your treatment plan is one of the best forms of self-care.

Make sure you don’t miss any of your scheduled appointments, take your medications as directed, and follow up with your doctor as recommended. You’ll also want to call your doctor if your symptoms get worse or don’t improve with treatment.

All of the above self-care tips are important, but remember to keep up with your care plan to lead a better quality of life.


Albinism Overview, Symptoms, Causes & Complications

The term albinism typically refers to oculocutaneous (ok-u-low-ku-TAY-nee-us) albinism (OCA) — a group of inherited disorders where there is little or no production of the pigment melanin. The type and amount of melanin your body produces determines the color of your skin, hair and eyes.

Melanin also plays a role in the development of optic nerves, so people with albinism have vision problems.

Signs of albinism are usually apparent in a person’s skin, hair and eye color, but sometimes differences are slight. People with albinism are also sensitive to the effects of the sun, so they’re at increased risk of developing skin cancer.

Although there’s no cure for albinism, people with the disorder can take steps to protect their skin and eyes and maximize their vision.

Signs and symptoms of albinism involve skin, hair, and eye color and vision.

The most recognizable form of albinism results in white hair and very light-colored skin compared with siblings. Skin coloring (pigmentation) and hair color can range from white to brown, and may be nearly the same as that of parents or siblings without albinism.

With exposure to the sun, some people may develop:

  • Freckles
  • Moles, with or without pigment — moles without pigment are generally pink-colored
  • Large freckle-like spots (lentigines)
  • Sunburn and the inability to tan

For some people with albinism, skin pigmentation never changes. For others, melanin production may begin or increase during childhood and the teen years, resulting in slight changes in pigmentation.

Hair color can range from very white to brown. People of African or Asian descent who have albinism may have hair color that’s yellow, reddish or brown. Hair color may also darken by early adulthood or stain from exposure to normal minerals in water and the environment, and appear darker with age.

Eye color
Eyelashes and eyebrows are often pale. Eye color can range from very light blue to brown and may change with age.

The lack of pigment in the colored part of the eyes (irises) makes the irises somewhat translucent. This means that the irises can’t completely block light from entering the eye. Because of this, very light-colored eyes may appear red in some lighting.

Vision impairment is a key feature of all types of albinism. Eye problems and issues may include:

  • Rapid, involuntary back-and-forth movement of the eyes (nystagmus)
  • Head movements, such as bobbing or tilting the head, to try to reduce the involuntary eye movements and see better
  • Inability of both eyes to stay directed at the same point or to move in unison (strabismus)
  • Extreme nearsightedness or farsightedness
  • Sensitivity to light (photophobia)
  • Abnormal curvature of the front surface of the eye or the lens inside the eye (astigmatism), which causes blurred vision
  • Abnormal development of the retina, resulting in reduced vision
  • Nerve signals from the retina to the brain that don’t follow the usual nerve pathways (misrouting of the optic nerve)
  • Poor depth perception
  • Legal blindness (vision less than 20/200) or complete blindness

When to see a doctor
At your child’s birth, if the doctor notices a lack of pigment in hair or skin that affects the eyelashes and eyebrows, the doctor will likely order an eye exam and closely follow any changes in your child’s pigmentation and vision.

If you observe signs of albinism in your baby, talk to your doctor.

Contact your doctor if your child with albinism experiences frequent nosebleeds, easy bruising or chronic infections. These signs and symptoms may indicate the presence of Hermansky-Pudlak syndrome or Chediak-Higashi syndrome, which are rare but serious disorders that include albinism.

Several genes provide instructions for making one of several proteins involved in the production of melanin. Melanin is produced by cells called melanocytes, which are found in your skin, hair and eyes.

Albinism is caused by a mutation in one of these genes. Different types of albinism can occur, based mainly on which gene mutation caused the disorder. The mutation may result in no melanin at all or a significantly reduced amount of melanin.

Types of albinism
Types of albinism are classified based on how they’re inherited and on the gene that is affected.

Oculocutaneous albinism (OCA), the most common type, means a person inherited two copies of a mutated gene — one from each parent (autosomal recessive inheritance). It’s the result of a mutation in one of seven genes, labeled from OCA1 to OCA7. OCA causes decreased pigment in the skin, hair and eyes, as well as vision problems. The amount of pigment varies by type, and the resulting color of skin, hair and eyes also varies by and within types.
Ocular albinism is mainly limited to the eyes, causing vision problems. The most common form is type 1, inherited by a gene mutation on the X chromosome.

X-linked ocular albinism can be passed on by a mother who carries one mutated X gene to her son (X-linked recessive inheritance). Ocular albinism occurs almost exclusively in males and is much less common than OCA.

Albinism related to rare hereditary syndromes can occur. For example, Hermansky-Pudlak syndrome includes a form of OCA as well as bleeding and bruising problems and lung and bowel diseases. Chediak-Higashi syndrome includes a form of OCA as well as immune problems with recurrent infections, neurologic abnormalities and other serious issues.

Albinism can include skin and eye complications as well as social and emotional challenges.

Eye complications
Problems with vision can impact learning, employment and the ability to drive.

Skin complications
People with albinism have skin that is very sensitive to light and sun exposure. Sunburn is one of the most serious complications associated with albinism because it can increase the risk of developing skin cancer and sun damage-related thickening of the skin.

Social and emotional challenges
Some people with albinism may experience discrimination. The reactions of other people to those with albinism can often have a negative impact on people with the condition.

People with albinism may experience bullying, teasing or probing questions about their appearance, eyewear or visual aid devices. They usually look very different from members of their own families or ethnic groups, so they may feel like outsiders or be treated like outsiders. These experiences may contribute to social isolation, poor self-esteem and stress.

Using the term “person with albinism” is preferred to avoid the stigma of other terms.

If a family member has albinism, a genetic counselor can help you understand the type of albinism and the chances of having a future child with albinism. He or she can also explain the available tests.


Myths of Psychotherapy #1: The Purpose of Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, talk therapy, and counseling are all terms used when treatment revolves around a patient talking to a therapist every week. This series of blogs aims to evaluate some common myths about getting therapy for one’s mental or emotional symptoms.

Myth: The purpose of psychotherapy is to see your counselor and ‘vent,’ or describe all of your problems.

Reality: This may be partially true. The term catharsis is a fancy one that means letting one’s emotions out. This can be helpful when a loved one has passed away, for example. This is helpful over a few sessions, but doing this every week for a year likely does not help

Venting and just rattling off problems sometimes helps if an objective observer can help you think through the problem. But the goal of psychotherapy isn’t to have someone tell you what to do, or how to do it.

It is important to tell your therapist what has happened to you during the week: the good, bad, and neutral things. This way the therapist figures out your usual coping skills and ways of dealing with people and social situations.

The real work and cure in certain types of psychotherapy is actually how you relate to your therapist over time. It isn’t necessarily what you say in session, describing your problems, but more the process.

For example, if you are venting and you feel your therapist disagrees with you, then you might get angry and defiant, or perhaps sad and feel let down.

But to get the most out of your therapy, it would be best to tell your therapist that his or her comment made you feel angry, sad, abandoned, etc. and discuss this interpersonal problem rather than just go on talking about the flat tire you got on the way home from work.

This works on the process and patterns between you and your therapist and may actually give you better skills for dealing with these tough situations in everyday life when other people let you down, abandon you, or make you feel angry, or sad. This way you will know how to handle these situations better without getting depressed, anxious, drunk, violent, or suicidal.


Acute Sinusitis Symptoms, Causes, Complications & More

Acute sinusitis (acute rhinosinusitis) causes the cavities around your nasal passages (sinuses) to become inflamed and swollen. This interferes with drainage and causes mucus to build up.

With acute sinusitis, it might be difficult to breathe through your nose. The area around your eyes and face might feel swollen, and you might have throbbing facial pain or a headache.

Acute sinusitis is mostly caused by the common cold. Unless a bacterial infection develops, most cases resolve within a week to 10 days.

In most cases, home remedies are all that’s needed to treat acute sinusitis. However, persistent sinusitis can lead to serious infections and other complications. Sinusitis that lasts more than 12 weeks despite medical treatment is called chronic sinusitis.

Acute sinusitis symptoms often include:

  • Drainage of a thick, yellow or greenish discharge from the nose or down the back of the throat (postnasal drainage)
  • Nasal obstruction or congestion, causing difficulty breathing through your nose
  • Pain, tenderness, swelling and pressure around your eyes, cheeks, nose or forehead that worsens when bending over

Other signs and symptoms can include:

  • Ear pressure
  • Headache
  • Aching in your upper jaw and teeth
  • Reduced sense of smell and taste
  • Cough, which might be worse at night
  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Fatigue
  • Fever

When to see a doctor
Most people with acute sinusitis don’t need to see a doctor.

Contact your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Symptoms that either don’t improve within a few days or worsen
  • A persistent fever
  • A history of recurrent or chronic sinusitis

Acute sinusitis is most often caused by the common cold, which is a viral infection. In some cases, a bacterial infection develops.

Risk factors
You may be at increased risk of getting sinusitis if you have:

  • Hay fever or another allergic condition that affects your sinuses
  • A nasal passage abnormality, such as a deviated nasal septum, nasal polyps or tumors
  • A medical condition such as cystic fibrosis or an immune system disorder such as HIV/AIDS

Acute sinusitis complications are uncommon. If they occur, they might include:

  • Chronic sinusitis. Acute sinusitis may be a flare-up of a long-term problem known as chronic sinusitis. Chronic sinusitis lasts longer than 12 weeks.
  • Meningitis. This infection causes inflammation of the membranes and fluid surrounding your brain and spinal cord.
    Other infections. Uncommonly, infection can spread to the bones (osteomyelitis) or skin (cellulitis).
  • Partial or complete loss of sense of smell. Nasal obstruction and inflammation of the nerve for smell (olfactory nerve) can cause temporary or permanent loss of smell.
  • Vision problems. If infection spreads to your eye socket, it can cause reduced vision or even blindness that can be permanent.

Take these steps to help reduce your risk of getting acute sinusitis:

  • Avoid upper respiratory infections. Minimize contact with people who have colds. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, especially before your meals.
  • Manage your allergies. Work with your doctor to keep symptoms under control.
  • Avoid cigarette smoke and polluted air. Tobacco smoke and other pollutants can irritate and inflame your lungs and nasal passages.
  • Use a humidifier. If the air in your home is dry, such as it is if you have forced-air heat, adding moisture to the air may help prevent sinusitis. Be sure the humidifier stays clean and free of mold with regular, thorough cleaning.


Beyond Therapy and Meds: 5 Ways to Feel Better

Are you always looking for more tools for managing your mental health condition – new, or more effective, approaches that will help you feel better?

Maybe you already see a psychotherapist to learn better coping and communication skills, and perhaps also a psychiatrist for your meds. Both of these interventions, psychotherapy and medication, are well-studied and effective – but sometimes they simply aren’t enough.

What most people don’t realize is that additional help is available – and doesn’t require a prescription.

I’m talking about lifestyle changes, like exercise, mindfulness meditation, sleep, social connectedness, and nutrition – they can all improve mental wellness. This is not just my clinical impression – these are effective, well-studied wellness interventions. Here’s what the data tells us:

Exercise is a helpful anti-depressant intervention. The recommended “dose” of exercise for the treatment of depression is 14 miles of walking per week. Agreed, this sounds like a lot, but let’s break it down.

This is only 30-minutes of brisk walking per day – a pace of 4 miles/hour will get you to 2 miles/day. If you have physical limitations, you can break this down into two 15-minute blocks of time or three 10-minute blocks of time.

Mindfulness Meditation (MM) has been shown to delay the time between depressive episodes. Put another way, MM is known to increase periods of time that are symptom free. How much meditation time do you need in order to see benefits?

That depends on who you ask and your specific situation. Recommendations vary from one-hour a day, 6 days a week to a total of one-hour of meditation over 3 consecutive days. Here are a couple of websites you may find helpful as you begin exploring the world of MM:

  • University of California San Diego Health, Center for Mindfulness
  • Be Mindful, Online Mindfulness Course
  • Your Guide to MBCT

Quality sleep is a critical to overall wellness. Data seems to show that there is a sweet spot when it comes to how much sleep is best – roughly 6 to 8 hours per night is recommended. Restricted or excessive sleep leads to health problems so it’s best to set a regular bedtime aiming for 6-8 hours of sleep per night.

Social connections matter. Those that are more socially connected appear to live longer, and experience fewer health problems. Social connectedness comes in many flavors – getting together with others for coffee, dinner, or a movie, joining some type of club – the options are endless.

These activities are considered Macro-Socialization (large) but don’t forget about Micro-Socialization (small) opportunities – interacting with strangers or casual acquaintances in brief social interactions like speaking to someone on an elevator, or sharing a kind word with a person in a checkout line. Each encounter – macro or micro – counts so get out there and connect!

Food choices make a difference in terms of mental health. Data for those following the MIND Diet, a blend of the Mediterranean and DASH diets, report a 54% reduction in the development of Alzheimer’s Disease, which is quite impressive especially for our aging population.

When I say “mental wellness”, it may sound like a far off goal to you – a golden ring, just out of reach. But you can improve your mental wellness – you have the ability to implement changes that can move you closer to grabbing that golden ring.


Want to Sleep Better? Therapy Can Help

If you struggle to sleep at night, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that more than a third of American adults aren’t getting enough sleep on a regular basis.

And lack of sleep doesn’t just drag you down and make it hard to function – insomnia increases the risk for nearly every mental health and physical health issue. So, getting quality sleep is an absolute must.

If sleep hygiene improvements (using a sleep mask, skipping naps, avoiding electronics before bedtime, etc.) and prescription or over-the-counter medication haven’t solved your sleep challenges, I have an effective intervention you may like. It’s called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – Insomnia (CBT-I), and the American College of Physicians recommends that all adult patients receive CBT-I as first-line treatment for chronic insomnia disorder (ongoing insomnia).

CBT-I is a systematized program that identifies behaviors and thoughts that contribute to, and worsen, sleep problems. These challenging behaviors and thoughts are replaced with habits that promote quality sleep. The goal is to overcome the underlying causes of insomnia rather than simply treating the symptoms. Below are a few elements of CBT-I:

  • Sleep Restriction Therapy – avoid napping during the day to increase sleepiness at bedtime
  • Stimulus Control Instructions – identify behaviors that limit sleep
  • Sleep Hygiene Education – avoid caffeine, limit ambient light in your bedroom, limiting electronics before bed, etc.
  • Sleep Assessments and Sleep Diaries

Relapse Prevention
It’s best to do this work with a trained CBT-I practitioner, but if you don’t have access to a trained clinician, there’s an app that can help. It’s called CBT-I Coach – and it’s free!

The app offers a structured program that guides users through the process of learning about sleep, developing positive sleep routines, and improving sleep environments.

You can use the app to enhance face-to-face care with a CBT-I clinician or it can be used on its own. It’s not intended to replace your relationship with a healthcare practitioner, so be sure to talk to your clinician.

Improving your sleep will absolutely make a difference in your overall well-being, both physically and mentally. So, if you’re experiencing sleep challenges, seek solutions.