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Ear, Nose & Throat: Chronic Sinusitis

About

Sinusitis affects 37 million people each year.1,2 It is more prevalent than heart disease and asthma and has a greater impact on quality of life than chronic back pain or congestive heart failure.3

When you have acute or chronic sinusitis, the mucous membranes of your nose, sinuses, and throat become inflamed, possibly from a pre-existing cold or allergies. Swelling obstructs the sinus openings and prevents normal mucus drainage, causing mucus and pressure to build up. Symptoms include: drainage of a thick, yellow or greenish discharge from the nose or down the back of the throat; nasal obstruction or congestion; tenderness and swelling around the eyes, cheeks, nose and forehead; and/or a reduced sense of smell and taste.

Types of Sinusitis

Many sinusitis cases are acute, but if sinusitis symptoms last longer than 12 weeks, it could be chronic sinusitis. Structural issues such as blockage of the sinus opening can also lead to chronic sinusitis.

A Look into the Sinuses

The sinuses are hollow spaces in the skull (i.e. the frontal, ethmoid, sphenoid and maxillary) which serve to lighten the skull and give resonance to the voice. The purpose of the sinuses, which open into the nasal cavity, is to generate mucus to keep the nose from drying out during breathing and to trap unwanted materials so that they do not reach the lungs.

Each sinus has an opening that allows mucus to drain – this drainage is essential to keeping your sinuses working well and you healthy. Anything that obstructs that flow may cause a buildup of mucus and lead to a sinus infection.

Sinusitis treatment includes medical and natural therapy, as well as sinus surgery. An Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor can diagnose acute or chronic sinusitis and determine the best treatment plan.

Symptoms

If you are like many patients, you may have misdiagnosed yourself as having allergies or a cold, when you actually have sinusitis. It’s important to see your primary care doctor or an ENT doctor to get a proper diagnosis.

Sinusitis symptoms may include:4

 

  • Facial pain
  • Tenderness and swelling around the eyes, cheeks, nose and forehead
  • Sinus pressure or congestion
  • Difficulty breathing through the nose
  • Loss of the sense of smell or taste
  • Sinus headache
  • Yellow or green mucus from the nose
  • Teeth pain
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat from nasal discharge
  • Bad breath

 

After listening to your history of symptoms and conducting an exam, your doctor may diagnose you with acute sinusitis, which is a temporary inflammation of the sinus lining that is caused by a bacterial infection and commonly called a sinus infection. For acute sinusitis, your doctor may recommend saline nasal sprays, antibiotics, nasal steroid sprays, decongestants and over-the-counter pain relievers to help relieve the condition.

If your symptoms do not resolve with medication, or if you experience symptoms for longer than 12 weeks, you could have chronic sinusitis.

Sinusitis (also called rhinosinusitis) is an inflammation of the sinus lining that prevents normal mucus drainage through the nose. This blockage causes mucus to build up in the sinuses and can lead to very uncomfortable symptoms.

Sinusitis

1Benninger, M. et al. Adult chronic rhinosinusitis: Definitions, diagnosis, epidemiology, and pathophysiology. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 2003; 129S: S1-S32.
2Lusk R, Bothwell MR, Piccirillo J. Long-term follow-up for children treated with surgical intervention for chronic rhinosinusitis. Laryngoscope 2006; 116:(12) 2099-2107.
3Gliklich RE, Metson R. The health impact of chronic sinusitis in patients seeking otolaryngologic care. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1995 Jul; 113(1):104-9.

4http://www.entnet.org/healthinformation/sinusitis.cfm