chronic sinusitis

What is Chronic Sinusitis and What Can You Do About It

July 25, 2018

Every year, chronic sinusitis affects millions of Americans. In fact, it's the reason for between 18 and 22 million physician visits.

This incredibly common condition only seems to be becoming more prevalent, and it costs the U.S. $3.4-5 billion each year.

If you're one of the millions of people struggling with chronic sinus inflammation, you're probably ready to do whatever it takes to get rid of this illness.

Read on to learn more about chronic sinusitis and how you can kick it to the curb for good.

What is Chronic Sinusitis?

Chronic sinusitis is a condition that occurs when the sinuses -- cavities that surround the nasal passages -- become swollen and inflamed. This condition is considered to be chronic when the inflammation lasts for at least 12 weeks and isn't helped by traditional treatments or medications.

People with chronic sinus inflammation tend to experience poor drainage and mucus buildup. This often makes breathing difficult and can cause facial pain or pressure.

Symptoms of Chronic Sinusitis

Other common symptoms of chronic sinus inflammation include:

  • Thick or discolored discharge that comes from the knows or drains down the back of the throat (postnasal drip)
  • Nasal congestion
  • Pain or tenderness around the eyes, nose, forehead, or cheeks
  • Reduced sense of taste and smell
  • Ear pain
  • Aching in the jaw and/or teeth
  • A cough that gets worse at night
  • A sore throat
  • Nausea
  • Irritability or fatigue

In most cases, for a chronic sinusitis diagnosis, at least two of these signs need to be present.

What Causes Chronic Sinusitis?

The following are some of the most common causes of chronic sinus inflammation:

  • Nasal polyps: These are tissue growths that grow in and sometimes block the sinuses and nasal passages.
  • Deviated nasal septum: If the wall between your nostrils is crooked, you may experience a blockage in your sinus passages.
  • Respiratory tract infections: The common cold and other infections can cause the sinuses to become thickened and inflamed.
  • Allergies: Severe seasonal allergies can cause inflammation and sinus blockages.

Other medical conditions can also contribute to chronic sinus inflammation. Some of the most common conditions that do this are cystic fibrosis, gastroesophageal reflux disease (also known as GERD), HIV, and other immune-related diseases.

Risk factors

Doctors have found that the following people are more prone to chronic sinus inflammation than others:

  • People with asthma
  • People with aspirin sensitivities (this condition has been known to cause respiratory issues)
  • People who struggle with immune system disorders
  • People with severe allergies or hay fever
  • People who are regularly exposed to pollutants like cigarette smoke

If any of these situations apply to you and you're experiencing symptoms of sinusitis, you may need to see a doctor to work on clearing things up for good.

How to Treat Chronic Sinusitis

There are a number of treatment options that can be used to get rid of chronic sinus inflammation. Some of the most common ones include:

  • Nasal irrigation: Irrigation with a saline solution can help minimize nasal drainage and rinse away irritants that are contributing to chronic inflammation.
  • Nasal corticosteroid sprays: These sprays contain steroids, which help reduce and prevent inflammation -- some doctors recommend combining these with nasal irrigation.
  • Oral or injected corticosteroids: These medications can be used to relieve severe inflammation, especially in people whose sinusitis is caused by nasal polyps.
  • Aspirin desensitization treatment: If you're sensitive to aspirin but need to take it, your doctor may recommend this type of treatment to increase your tolerance and minimize the symptoms of sinusitis.
  • Antibiotics: If your sinusitis is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics can help eliminate the infection and get rid of your symptoms
  • Immunotherapy: For people whose sinusitis is caused by allergies, allergy shots can help minimize reactions to known allergens and improve symptoms

Sometimes, doctors will also recommend lifestyle changes to help patients manage the symptoms of chronic inflammation. Some simple lifestyle changes you can make to find relief from your condition include:

  • Getting plenty of rest to help the body fight off inflammation
  • Drink plenty of fluids to dilute mucus and promote better drainage
  • Moisturize the sinus cavities with steam from a hot shower
  • Apply warm compresses to ease facial pain
  • Sleep with the head elevated to promote sinus drainage and reduce congestion while you sleep
  • It can also be helpful to avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages when you struggle with sinusitis. These beverages are dehydrating and can actually make swelling of the sinus and nasal lining worse.

Surgical Interventions

In more extreme cases, when none of the lifestyle treatments mentioned above seem to be working, your doctor may suggest surgery.

There are a few different types of procedures that doctors will recommend to combat chronic sinus inflammation. Listed below are two of the most common options:

  1. Endoscopic Sinus Surgery
    A common surgery that doctors will perform for people with chronic sinusitis involves surgically removing tissue or polyps that are blocking the sinuses.

    During this procedure, doctors explore the sinus cavities with an endoscope and then use a variety of instruments to shave away what's causing the obstruction. This procedure requires general anesthesia and several days to a week recovery time.

  2. The OPEN Procedure
    If the idea of a doctor shaving away parts of your sinus cavities doesn't appeal to you, you're not alone.  That's why another procedure known as the OPEN procedure is getting a lot of attention lately.

    This procedure involves attaching a tiny balloon to a catheter. The doctor then threads the catheter into the sinus cavity and inflates it. This causes your sinuses to expand and relieves the pressure.

    This is a same day, in office procedure which only involves local anesthesia very short recovery time.

    When the sinuses have expanded, the doctor will deflate the balloon and remove the catheter. The whole procedure takes less than an hour, yields great results, and is less invasive than traditional interventions.

Say Goodbye to Chronic Sinusitis Today

Are you ready to get rid of sinusitis once and for all? Do you live in the Scottsdale or Phoenix areas?

If so, we're here to help at the Sinus and Allergy Center of Northern Scottsdale. Contact us today to request an appointment -- we'll figure out what's causing your sinusitis and you get you on your way to feeling more like your old self!

The following form is only for appointment requests. No medical advice is provided through this website.