Sinus infection or sinusitis is a common health issue that affects millions of individuals all over the globe. Most of these cases are usually mild and triggered by a bacterial or viral infection. In some cases, sinus infections can be caused by fungus.
It is important to note that fungi are found everywhere and the airborne types can be inhaled into the nose and lungs, thus causing various types of infections in the respiratory tract. The fungal sinus infections can be categorized in two main types – non-invasive and invasive.
- Non-invasive fungal sinus infection affects those with normal immune systems and do not spread beyond the sinuses. Good examples include allergic fungal sinusitis, fungal colonization and fungus ball.
- Invasive fungal sinus infections typically affect those with a weakened immune system and can spread to the surrounding tissue and can be life-threatening. Examples include acute, chronic and granulomatous forms.
What is fungus colonization?
The structural abnormalities and chronic sinus conditions can put an individual at risk to be colonized by fungus. It simply means that fungus is present on a culture taken from the sinuses or nose, but there are no indications of a sinus infection. Treatment is not required for fungal colonization of the sinuses.
What is allergic fungal sinusitis (AFS)?
Allergic fungal sinus infection is a severe allergic reaction due to the fungus inside the sinuses. The condition is described as a long-lasting non-invasive sinus infection with the presence of fungi, nasal polyps and eosinophils in the sinus contents. Individuals with this condition often experience severe nasal congestion, difficulty with smell and black or brown peanut butter nasal discharge. Headaches, sinus pressure and double vision can also occur.
A fungus ball is a well-formed mass of fungus that is present in one or more of the sinus cavities. These are usually caused by aspergillus and often trigger nasal congestion, sinus pressure and headache but some individuals do not have any symptoms.
Invasive fungal sinus infections
The invasive fungal infections are capable of affecting not just the sinuses but also the neighboring soft tissue, bone, eyes and the brain. Acute and chronic forms of invasive fungal sinus infections typically affect those who have a suppressed immune system. The symptoms of this condition often include eye swelling, facial pain, fever, blindness and nose bleeding.
The treatment typically involves surgical removal of the fungal infection and the use of antifungal medications. Take note that the prognosis of this condition is poor if the underlying immune system issue is not corrected.
The granulomatous invasive fungal sinus infections typically affect those who live in India, Sudan and Pakistan who appear to have normal immune systems. The symptoms are similar to those who have AFS but the condition is not due to a fungal allergy. The treatment for this condition involves surgical removal of the fungal infection and antifungal medications.