Can Balloons Treat Your Sinus Problems?

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April 27, 2006 | 9,009 views

A new procedure treats chronic sinusitis by inserting a balloon up patients' noses. In theory, this could provide them relief without the pain of standard sinus surgery.

Sinusitis is an inflammation of the passages that drain the sinuses surrounding the nose and eyes. It can result in facial pain and debilitating headaches.

In chronic sinusitis, the symptoms last longer than two months or recur regularly. For severe cases, doctors use special tools to enlarge the sinus openings by cutting out infected tissue and bone.

In the new procedure, called balloon sinuplasty, a balloon is inflated to stretch the sinus openings. Stretching out the sinus cavity lets air back in and allows prescribed antibiotics to do their work.

Only about 100 doctors are trained in balloon sinuplasty, and research is only beginning to examine how well it works. Many patients have growths, called polyps, that the balloon cannot remove, and some patients have bone inflammation that must be cut away rather than pushed aside.

Balloons appear to be becoming one of the trends in treating medical conditions. Not so long ago, I ran an article about silicon balloons inflated with saline in patients' stomachs to help them fight obesity. Now, some doctors are using similar technology to treat chronic sinus problems.

Some experts see this procedure as the middle-ground between endless rounds of antibiotics -- a bad solution at best -- and more invasive surgery. However, the FDA approved the new sinus balloon device last summer based only on a tiny study of 10 patients that found no safety concerns.

As many of you know, I am a major fan of technology. However, technology applied inappropriately is no benefit for you. Unfortunately, this is quite common in "health care" in the United States.

Many seek to apply apparently innovative tech solutions that do not really address the cause of the problem.

Tech in medicine seems to really shine in diagnostics, so the general caution when evaluating new tech applications in health is to be wary if it is being touted as treatment. If it is being used as a test, it is far more likely to be a main benefit to you.

Using balloons to treat your sinus problems is another wishful fantasy that you should run, not walk, away from, as it in no way addresses the reason why you have sinus problems. It clearly is not related to a nasal balloon deficiency.

It has been my experience that allergies are nearly always behind chronic sinus problems and that by following the Total Health Program you can go a long way toward improving this condition. Some of the highlights would be to:

  • Reduce, with the plan of eliminating, grains and sugars from your diet.
  • Take a high-quality source of omega-3 fats like krill oil daily.
  • Avoid antibiotics as they will contribute to recurrences.
  • Be certain to take a good probiotic, especially if you have been placed on antibiotics.
  • Consider flushing your sinuses with salt water.

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