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How to Distinguish Between a Sinus Infection and a Brain Abscess

thesinusdoctor-sinus infectionIn Houston, a lot of people suffer from sinus infections due to allergies. While some just need to take allergy medications to ease the symptoms, others have found that a sinus infection can turn into a potentially fatal brain abscess over time. The problem with a brain abscess is it is difficult to diagnose at its early stages. Being aware of sinus abscess symptoms, especially if you suffer from constant sinusitis, should help you know if it is time to see a specialist.

What is Brain Abscess

Brain abscesses, by definition, are pus trapped inside inflamed brain tissue. While these are rare, they often occur when bacteria or fungi travel from the sinus infection and cross the blood-brain barrier that protects the brain. To combat the spread of the infection within the brain, the the immune system forms a membrane around the pus to contain it. Left untreated, the brain abscess can swell and damage other healthy brain tissue.

3 Similar Symptoms Between Sinus Infection and Brain Abscess

A brain abscess can escape detection in its early stages because it shares some symptoms with a typical sinus infection. Here are three of their similar symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Fever

As you can see, the symptoms of a brain abscess are so general that they may be caused by a wide variety of illnesses–one of which is a sinus infection. It is no wonder that most health centers are only able to accurately diagnose a patient with a brain abscess after two weeks, because this is when other symptoms start appearing.

5 Key Differences Between Sinus Infection and Brain Abscess

After about two weeks of having a brain abscess, people start presenting other sinus abscess symptoms, which are not typical of a sinus infection. If you are suffering from one right now, below are some of the other symptoms that may indicate a brain abscess.

  • Personality Changes
  • Seizures
  • Neck Stiffness
  • Vomiting
  • Muscular Weakness

Generally, these are the key differences between a typical sinus infection and a dangerous brain abscess. Depending on the complexity of the brain abscess, sufferers may experience other symptoms. Neurological symptoms such as personality changes, vomiting, and seizures are often caused by the brain pressing against the skull and other healthy tissue. People with a brain abscess may also feel an isolated muscular weakness on just one side of the body, which is indicative of neurological problems. Additionally, sufferers may also experience neck stiffness as the abscess pushes against their skull.

Diagnosing a Brain Abscess

Make sure to consult a doctor if you are worried that your sinus infection has indeed turned into a brain abscess. Apart from taking your travel and medical history, you will also be asked to take an MRI or CT scan to check for spots on your brain. Tests may also be performed on your blood and other body fluids. If the diagnosis is still uncertain, then a neurosurgeon may opt to remove a portion of the abscess by inserting a thin needle. Keep in mind, however, that the number of tests required may vary depending on the doctor as well as the complexity of the brain abscess.

The good news is that it is often rare for a sinus infection to turn into a brain abscess. However, it is also better to be safe rather than sorry. If you experience any of the sinus abscess symptoms described above such as personality changes, neck stiffness, muscular weakness, and seizures, visit your doctor straightaway. Without the right treatment at the right time, an abscess can cause permanent damage to your brain and may even be fatal.

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