-Symptoms and causes
Chronic sinusitis occurs in the spaces between the bones that make up the skull. These spaces are typically filled with air (or fluid). The sinuses are lined with layers of tissue called mucosa, through which air and water flows into the nose.
Individuals without chronic sinusitis may have a variety of symptoms, including nasal congestion and discharge, postnasal drip, sore throat, facial pain or pressure, headaches or toothaches from inflammation around nerves in the head and neck region. Often these symptoms go away after a few days but individuals diagnosed with chronic sinusitis often live with a near constant feeling of fullness in their nose for years on end.
Chronic sinusitis often goes undiagnosed for a long time before being diagnosed. Typically symptoms last for more than six months and may be affected by changes in weather, loss of sleep, stress or fatigue. In some cases chronic sinusitis is related to certain diseases, such as asthma and allergies, but in most cases the cause is unknown.
Chronic sinusitis is classified as either obstructive or non-obstructive. Obstructive chronic sinusitis is the result of a blockage in the sinuses that prevents air from flowing normally, while non-obstructive sinusitis occurs when the nose has too much mucus, or there are too many bacteria present. Common symptoms of non-obstructive chronic sinusitis include chronic headaches and facial pressure.
Chronic sinusitis can lead to several complications, including:
The most common complication of chronic sinusitis is headache. People with chronic sinusitis often have a sense of fullness in their nose, which may increase during times when they are under stress or sleep deprived. This may result in a headache. For chronic sufferers of sinus headaches, over the counter pain medications, like acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin may be helpful.
In some cases, chronic sinusitis is associated with difficulty breathing through the nose and may require surgery to correct this problem.
Chronic sinusitis can also cause an increase in postnasal drip. Postnasal drip is a condition that occurs when mucous or fluid builds up in the back of the throat and is released out of the nostrils. Postnasal drip can lead to a sore throat or make swallowing difficult. Drinking plenty of fluids, eating smaller meals and avoiding foods that trigger postnasal drip may help ease symptoms.
Some people develop facial pain as a result of chronic sinusitis. This is often most severe around the eyes, near the cheeks or in the jaw. In some cases, this is a result of direct pressure to the sinuses because they are blocked by infected tissue or solidified mucous and other debris. Other times it is due to an infection spreading from the sinuses into the face. If you experience facial pain with your chronic sinusitis, consider seeing an ENT specialist for evaluation and treatment options.
Chronic sinusitis can also cause headaches. The most common cause of sinus headaches is an infection that spreads from the sinuses to the lining of the brain. When this occurs, it is known as meningitis. In many cases chronic sinusitis is a contributing factor in meningitis, but not all individuals with chronic sinusitis have symptoms relating to this condition. If you are experiencing chronic headaches and have been diagnosed with chronic sinusitis, consider seeing an ENT specialist for evaluation and treatment options.
In some cases people experience pain near their teeth because of pressure on nerves in the jaw or neck region caused by infections or other problems within the head and neck area. This is called dental pain. Chronic sinusitis can cause serious damage to nerves, which may be the underlying cause of dental pain (paresthesia) in some cases. If you are experiencing facial pain with your chronic sinusitis, consider seeing an ENT specialist for evaluation and treatment options.
There are several ways to prevent and treat chronic sinusitis:
-Indirect ways to prevent chronic sinusitis include avoiding exposure to known allergens, like pollen or dust. In addition, making sure that you don't have any other conditions that can cause blockage in your nose or sinuses, like nasal polyps or deviated septum (a bump on the wall of your nose).
-Topical nasal steroids are considered an indirect way to treat chronic sinusitis, as they help reduce mucous production. However, research on the long-term effects of topical nasal steroids is limited and more studies need to be done in order to fully understand the risks and benefits of this treatment option.
-With direct ways to treat chronic sinusitis you can try using various noninvasive procedures such as nose irrigation (a procedure that involves flushing out your nose with warm saline water) or chemical decongestants (medicines that reduce congestion). In some cases surgery may be recommended if other methods of maintaining treatment don't yield positive results.
Be sure to see an ENT specialist if you have any of the following symptoms:
-Pain in your ears, face or head
-Migraines or pain around the eyes
-Problems swallowing food or liquids
-Excessive nasal discharge, which can be green, yellow, thick and foul smelling
-Ear infections or sore throat (which usually go away after a few weeks)
It can be difficult to diagnose chronic sinusitis and treat it effectively if it has been ongoing for a long time. For this reason many people with chronic sinusitis never get diagnosed as sinusitis is often confused with other conditions. For example, chronic rhinosinusitis is a common misdiagnosis that is a type of chronic sinusitis. It is caused by an infection in the sinuses and can cause headaches, facial pain or hearing loss. Similarly, sinus tumors are another misdiagnosis for chronic sinusitis. While these are not related to the sinuses,
they may cause symptoms like:
-Pain down the side of your face and/or jaw
-Hoarseness of voice
-Recurring postnasal drip which causes facial pain and headaches
If you are suffering from severe symptoms but have been given other diagnoses, see a medical specialist for diagnosis and treatment options.
Some people develop chronic sinusitis after having a cold. A common cause of chronic sinusitis after a cold is also flu. If you are experiencing chronic symptoms when you have been given a diagnosis of the flu or other upper respiratory infections, see a medical specialist for evaluation and treatment options.
Chronic sinusitis has been linked with several additional conditions including:
Chronic sinusitis can cause various types of headaches. If you experience chronic headaches and have been diagnosed with chronic sinusitis, consider seeing an ENT specialist for evaluation and treatment options.
If you are experiencing facial pain with your chronic sinusitis, consider seeing an ENT specialist for evaluation and treatment options.
Although it is possible to treat chronic rhinosinusitis with antibiotics, some people do not respond to treatment well. For this reason effective treatments may require surgery. In some cases the use of radiotherapy (a type of treatment that uses rays to kill cancer cells) may be necessary to treat chronic rhinosinusitis.
If you experience facial pain, headaches, nasal discharge or other chronic symptoms with your sinusitis, consider seeing an ENT specialist for evaluation and treatment options.
The most common chronic sinusitis treatment is antibiotics. When you have chronic sinusitis, antibiotics can help get rid of the infections that contribute to your condition and reduce the amount of mucous produced in the nose/sinuses. If you are experiencing facial pain or other chronic signs of sinusitis, consider seeing an ENT specialist for evaluation and treatment options.
In some cases your doctor may recommend taking over-the-counter medications to help treat your symptoms (antihistamines to dry up runny noses or decongestants to unclog stuffy noses). If you are experiencing facial pain, other chronic symptoms or postnasal drip with your sinusitis, consider seeing an ENT specialist for evaluation and treatment options. If over-the-counter medications do not help treat your sinusitis symptoms, your ENT specialist may prescribe medications such as:
-Corticosteroids to reduce the amount of mucous produced by the sinuses
-Decongestants to relieve congestion in the nose and sinuses
Many people have had success with nasal irrigation (a process that involves flushing out nasal passages with a saline fluid) during treatment for chronic rhinosinusitis. Nasoantral tubes are another option as they can be used to drain mucous from blocked nasal passages.
There are also a number of surgical options that can be used to treat chronic rhinosinusitis. These include:
-TURP (transurethral resection of the prostate)
-Inferior turbinate reduction (the removal of excess tissue in the nose)
-Septoplasty (surgical reconstruction of the nasal cavity)
If you have been diagnosed with chronic sinusitis, consider reaching out to your family and friends and letting them know so that they can help support you through this condition. Many people find comfort in talking to others who have been through similar situations and may be able to provide some support during treatment.
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Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. Please consult with a physician before taking any medications or treatment courses. The information on this page is not meant to substitute the services of an ENT Specialist. We do not provide any medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.