Chronic sinusitis, also called chronic rhinosinusitis, happens when the openings inside the head and nose are swollen for longer than three months, even with treatment. This condition also interrupts the normal flow of mucus and causes you to have a stuffy nose. If you have chronic sinusitis, you’ll likely find it hard to breathe through your nose, and the space around your eyes may be tender or slightly inflamed.
You can develop chronic sinusitis from an infection or from polyps in the sinus lining. This condition affects children and adults.
Symptoms of Chronic Sinusitis
Common symptoms of chronic sinusitis include:
- a swollen nose
- green or yellow thick nasal discharge
- postnasal drainage
- nasal congestion
- swelling and pain around the cheeks, nose, forehead, and eyes
- reduced sense of taste and smell
- pain in the teeth and upper jaw
- bad breath
- sore throat
It’s important to note that chronic and acute sinusitis are similar conditions. However, acute sinusitis is a short-lived infection of the sinuses that usually occurs after a cold. Chronic sinusitis can last for 12 weeks or more, and you could have several bouts of acute sinusitis before getting chronic sinusitis.
When You Should See a Doctor
You should visit your doctor if you’ve had sinusitis more than once and your sinusitis doesn’t respond to medication or treatments. If your symptoms last for 10 days or more, make an appointment so your doctor can inspect your sinusitis. If you have a lingering headache, vision issues, a stiff neck, red or swollen eyes, or a fever, make an appointment immediately — these are often signs of a serious infection.
What Causes Chronic Sinusitis?
Chronic sinusitis is caused by nasal polyps, which are nasal tissues that can block the sinuses. A crooked septum can also block the sinuses, which can cause and worsen sinusitis. If you have a medical condition that affects your immune system, such as HIV or cystic fibrosis, you may be more prone to chronic sinusitis. People with allergies and hay fever may also experience frequent bouts of chronic sinusitis.
Chronic Sinusitis Risk Factors
You’re at greater risk for developing chronic sinusitis if you have asthma, a sensitivity or allergy to aspirin, a dental infection, nasal polyps, or a deviated septum. If you have seasonal or chronic allergies and are especially sensitive to pollutants in the air like cigarette smoke, you’re more likely to have sinusitis.
Getting a Diagnosis
To accurately diagnose you for chronic sinusitis, your doctor will feel your sinus area for tenderness or pain and take a look inside your nasal passages. The doctor may also take an imaging test using an MRI or CT to clearly see the details of your nasal openings. The images may reveal obstruction or inflammation that explains your chronic sinusitis.
An allergy test can also be helpful when you’re looking for a way to treat chronic sinusitis. This test will determine which allergens are a problem for you, so you’ll know which plants, animals, and foods to stay away from.
Treating Chronic Sinusitis
Nasal corticosteroids are among the most common chronic sinusitis treatments. If a nasal spray isn’t doing the trick, the doctor may suggest that you rinse your sinuses with a mixture of salt and water. You may need to add budesonide to the saltwater for more relief.
Oral medicines can treat sinusitis as well. The medication reduces swelling, particularly if you suffer from nasal polyps. However, oral corticosteroids can cause severe side effects if you use them for too long, so doctors may only prescribe them if your symptoms are severe. If your sinusitis has caused you to develop a bacterial infection, you could be prescribed antibiotics as well.
In some cases, the doctor may recommend aspirin desensitization treatment. If your allergic to aspirin or have an aspirin sensitivity, you’ll take large doses of aspirin to reduce your sensitivity. This treatment should only be done under a doctor’s supervision.
If your allergy test revealed that certain substances are causing your sinusitis, you may need to start taking allergy shots, also known as immunotherapy. These shots lower your body’s reaction to certain allergens and may reduce your sinusitis symptoms.
In extreme cases, you may need to undergo surgery to treat chronic sinusitis. If your condition doesn’t respond to medical treatment or medicines, your physician will likely recommend endoscopic sinus surgery. A flexible tube with a light attached goes into your nose to inspect your sinuses. The light makes it easier to see the obstruction so the physician can use the necessary tools to shave or remove tissue or polyps that are blocking your nasal passages. In some cases, the surgery is necessary to enlarge your sinuses for efficient drainage.
In addition to instructions from your doctor, you can also try a few remedies at home. Consume foods that have antibacterial properties, like ginger, onions, and garlic. You can add these foods to your meals, take garlic capsules, or drink ginger tea to prevent sinus infections. It’s also best to stay hydrated so prevent nasal inflammation. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially if you live in an area that is particularly hot or dry.
Using essential oils can help you manage chronic sinusitis as well. Eucalyptus oil treats this condition because it prevents bacteria from accumulating in the sinuses, and chamomile has a calming effect on the sinuses. You can use these oils in a diffuser so you can breathe them in, or place a few drops in your shower so that the steam of the shower and the oils can work together to help you breathe easier.
Making an appointment with a qualified sinus doctor to help with your chronic sinus issues can help you experience relief from uncomfortable symptoms. Sinusitis can interfere with your daily life. When you find the right treatments for this condition, you’ll breathe easier, get rid of headaches, and get back to doing the things you love.