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Sinus Infections Push Millions to U.S. Doctors Each Year

But researchers find significant geographical differences in patients and treatment

MONDAY, Oct. 5, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Southern blacks account for the highest proportion of Americans undergoing outpatient treatment for chronic sinus infections, new research finds.

In addition, researchers studying the regional impact of sinus infections -- also known as rhinosinusitis -- found that women who seek treatment significantly outnumber men in all areas of the country.

About 14 percent of U.S. adults suffer from rhinosinusitis each year, contributing to an estimated 91.2 million outpatient visits annually.

The new study, supported by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, examined 4,617 visits to doctors' offices and emergency departments in which patients sought treatment for the condition.

Primary care physicians -- including family practice doctors and pediatricians, among others -- received the most visits. About 20 percent of medical visits occurred in emergency rooms, the researchers noted.

The study authors also found that care providers in the Northeast are less likely to order diagnostic services than doctors elsewhere. They also were less likely to prescribe or continue prescribing medications for all patients.

More research into the differences in regional care for patients with the condition are needed, the authors concluded.

Sinus infections can cause a variety of symptoms, including nasal congestion and discharge, cough, fever, postnasal drip and fever. In severe chronic cases, patients can develop nasal polyps. Doctors often treat the condition with sinus irrigation and medications, including some that dampen the immune system.

The study findings were scheduled to be presented Oct. 5 at the American Academy of Otolaryngology--Head and Neck Surgery Foundation annual meeting, held Oct. 4 to 7 in San Diego, Calif.

More information

Learn more about sinus infections from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCE: American Academy of Otolaryngology--Head and Neck Surgery, news release, Oct. 5, 2009
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