Chronic Sinusitis: An Overview of Possible Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Chronic sinusitis is a common condition affecting over 30 million people within the United States. Sometimes confused with allergies or the common cold due what may be similar symptoms, chronic sinusitis may cause sufferers to miss out on the medical attention they need. Sinusitis may disappear, but not typically on its own. If left untreated, chronic sinusitis may last several months and possibly even years. While acute sinusitis – often caused by a cold and disappearing along with that cold – usually lasts around a week, chronic sinusitis is much longer lasting. Sinusitis is considered chronic when it lasts longer than three months.

Chronic sinusitis complications due to lack of proper treatment may include continual difficulty breathing which could lead to forced inactivity and oxygen deprivation. Long-term chronic sinusitis can lead to complications which are even more severe, such as a permanent loss of vision or smell, as well as infections that spread throughout the body, or meningitis which causes swelling in the brain and spinal cord.

Most Frequent Causes of Chronic Sinusitis 

  • Chronic sinusitis is a condition which can simply be caused by mucous build-up.
  • Chronic sinusitis can occur when pollen or chemical allergies cause the nasal passages to become inflamed.
  • Viral or bacterial respiratory tract infections can also cause nasal passages to become inflamed, making it difficult to drain mucus and leading to chronic sinusitis.
  • Nasal polyps, tissue growths within the nose which may block sinus pathways making it difficult to breathe, are often a cause of sinusitis.
  • As is a deviated septum, an uneven wall of tissue separating the nostrils which can hamper the ability to breathe properly.

Other causes of chronic sinusitis include: health conditions such as asthma, which can cause chronic inflammation of the airways; HIV, which weakens the immune system; and cystic fibrosis, which can result in poor mucous drainage and subsequent bacterial infections leading to chronic sinusitis.

Symptoms of Chronic Sinusitis

Chronic Sinusitis symptoms can mimic a cold or allergies, but they are longer lasting and a bit farther reaching. For instance, chronic sinusitis patients may suffer from everything from nasal inflammation; to thick yellow or green nasal discharge; post nasal drip, which is mucous drainage down the back of the throat; dry or hardened mucus which blocks the nasal passages; difficulty breathing due to long-term inflammation and blockages; a sore throat; ear pain; headache due to swelling within the sinuses and subsequent sinus pressure; face tenderness around the eyes, checks and forehead also caused by sinus pressure; sore jaw and/or teeth; nausea due to excessive mucus; fatigue, which accompanies the fighting off of infection; and even halitosis.

Various Treatments for Chronic Sinusitis

Depending on the cause, chronic sinusitis may affect activities of daily living and may never be completely cured; but in many cases, chronic sinusitis symptoms can be more easily treated and managed:

  • There are over-the-counter remedies for certain chronic sinusitis symptoms, such as anti-inflammatories including ibuprofen, which may help relieve headaches and other chronic sinusitis symptoms caused by inflamed sinus passages and sinus pressure. 
  • Corticosteroid nasal sprays also help to reduce nasal passage inflammation. 
  • Products such as Flonase and Nasonex over-the-counter nasal sprays may reduce allergy-like symptoms, such as sneezing and itchy, stuffed and/or runny nose.
  • If chronic sinusitis is actually caused by allergies, the patient should be referred to an allergist so that allergy tests can be conducted to determine the specific offending allergens. Then allergy shots can be developed to alleviate symptoms for that patient based on those specific findings. Allergy shots help the body gradually develop an immune response to allergens.
  • If chronic sinusitis is the result of a sinus infection, antibiotics prescribed by a physician may be used to treat said infection.

Some Home Remedies that May Help Treat Chronic Sinusitis Symptoms

For short-term relief of chronic sinusitis symptoms, some effective home remedies include lubricating the nasal passages with a salt water solution. Chronic sinusitis sufferers may also try inhaling the steam from hot water or a humidifier for the reduction of nasal passage inflammation and to expedite proper mucous drainage.

However, keep in mind that while certain treatments may alleviate chronic sinusitis symptoms for the short-term, actual medical treatment with a plan developed and put in place by a physician is suggested and may be required for complete elimination of symptoms or at least for the best case scenario concerning the suppression of chronic sinusitis symptoms.

When Surgery Is Called for to Relieve Chronic Sinusitis

In very serious chronic sinusitis cases where treatment attempts do not help, surgery may be recommended by a physician. These cases could be to correct a deviated septum, reshaping the wall between the nostrils to expand the nasal cavity; or it could include endoscopic sinus surgery. During endoscopic surgery, a very thin tube outfitted with a tiny lighted camera is inserted into the sinus passages. This medical equipment is used to search for nasal blockages such as polyps, excess or swollen tissue or mucus buildup. If a blockage is discovered during this procedure, it is often removed to expand airways and/or nasal passages for improved breathing and to relieve other chronic sinusitis symptoms.

Chronic Sinusitis Clinical Trial

If you have been diagnosed with chronic sinusitis, you may qualify to participate in a Velocity Research Clinical chronic sinusitis clinical research study. Eligible participants may receive compensation for time and travel, as well as study-related medical care at no cost. No insurance is necessary to participate. Call 386-428-7730 for more information.