Sinusitis is an inflammatory condition affecting the nasal passages. Infection causes them to swell, preventing normal drainage of mucus and other debris. It is considered chronic when it lasts for twelve weeks or more and fails to respond favorably to medical treatment. So many American adults suffer from this condition that it has been deemed the most widely reported chronic disorder in the country.
What Causes Chronic Sinusitis?
When colds and allergies strike, the body produces mucus. Sometimes, this builds up to the point where it blocks the sinus cavities, trapping germs and bacteria inside. This causes irritation and swelling and results in an infection. Alternatively, a deviated septum, nasal polyps, tumors, injury to the head or face, and complications from autoimmune disorders can also contribute to repeat sinus infections.
Chronic sinusitis symptoms are similar to those associated with the common cold. They include a stuffy nose, runny nose, postnasal drip, sore throat, cough, facial pain and pressure, fever, headache, fatigue, reduced sense of smell and taste and bad breath.
Diagnosis & Treatment
You’ll be given a thorough physical exam and your doctor will ask you questions about your medical history. In addition, he or she will inspect your nasal passages for polyps or other obstructions, and may order more in-depth diagnostic testing (e.g. nasal endoscopy or CT scan) to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment is targeted toward long-term relief. Nasal decongestants are fine for an immediate fix, but when used for more than a few days can cause symptoms to worsen. Chronic sinusitis may be treated medically with nasal steroid sprays, antihistamines, saline washes and sprays and oral steroids. Antibiotics and allergy shots may be used in certain cases. In addition, there are a number of different surgical procedures available for widening the sinus cavity and removing obstructions.