Sinusitis is an inflammation of the nasal passages that prohibits mucus from draining properly. It is considered chronic when it persists for 12 weeks or longer, and doesn’t respond to medical treatment. Chronic sinusitis is the single biggest chronic health condition in the U.S., affecting some 37 million Americans annually.
Chronic sinusitis is often the result of infection. Colds and allergies may lead to an abundance of mucus that blocks the sinuses, causing irritation and swelling and allowing bacteria and other germs to grow. Other factors that can cause chronic sinusitis include a deviated nasal septum, nasal polyps, tumors, complications from autoimmune disorders, and trauma to the face or head.
Symptoms of chronic sinusitis are similar to those of acute sinusitis, but the latter condition is temporary and usually clears up within a week. Signs are cold-like and include nasal congestion and discharge, sore throat, postnasal drip, facial pressure and swelling, loss of smell and taste, headache, fever, fatigue, cough and bad breath.
In order to diagnose chronic sinusitis, your doctor or ENT specialist will examine you and ask questions about your symptoms and medical history. He or she will visually inspect your nose for polyps and other obstructions, and may use nasal endoscopy or a CT scan for a more in-depth look.
Treatment is based upon how severe your symptoms are, and will attempt to tackle the underlying cause. Nasal decongestants may provide immediate relief, but they are a short-term solution and shouldn’t be used for more than a few days, otherwise symptoms can actually worsen. Other temporary treatment options designed to provide instant relief include applying a warm, moist washcloth to your face periodically through the day, drinking lots of fluids, flushing the sinuses with a Neti pot or similar device, and using a humidifier. Chronic sinusitis requires a solution geared toward long-term effectiveness. Nasal steroid sprays, antihistamines, saline washes and sprays, and oral steroids can all be used for extended periods without harm. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections, immunotherapy (allergy shots) may be administered when allergies are the cause, and surgery to enlarge the sinus openings or repair a deviated septum is often an effective, permanent solution.
If you or someone you care for is experiencing problems their nose, please contact our office at 717-728-9700 to schedule an appointment.