Chronic Sinusitis

Chronic Sinusitis

“Chronic” means something that won’t go away or keeps coming back. Chronic sinusitis is an ongoing problem with the sinuses. It can cause uncomfortable symptoms. But your doctor can help you find relief. Read on to learn more.

Front view of face with sinuses visible. Sinus lining is pale and swollen, and fluid is building up inside.

What Is Chronic Sinusitis?

Sinuses are air-filled spaces in the skull behind the face. They are kept moist and clean by a lining of mucosa. Things such as pollen, smoke, and chemical fumes can irritate the mucosa. Constant exposure to irritants can cause persistent inflammation (swelling) of this lining. It can also damage tiny hairlike cilia that cover the mucosa. Cilia help transport mucus toward the opening of the sinus. Damage to cilia keeps mucus from draining from the sinuses.

Causes of Chronic Sinusitis

Problems that irritate the mucosa or block drainage can lead to chronic sinusitis. These may include:

  • Chronic allergies

  • Nasal polyps, deviated septum, or other obstructions

  • Constant exposure to irritants, such as cigarette smoke or fumes

Common Symptoms of Chronic Sinusitis

Symptoms may include:

  • Facial pain and pressure

  • Headache and sinus pain

  • Nasal congestion

  • Postnasal drip

  • Reduced smell and taste

  • Cough

  • Sore throat

Diagnosis of Chronic Sinusitis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. An evaluation will be done. The doctor will examine your nose and face. A test called an endoscopy may be done. During this test, a lighted tube is put through your nose up into your sinuses to view the sinuses. An imaging test called a CT scan may also be done. This test gives the doctor another view of the sinuses.

Treating Chronic Sinusitis

Treatment involves reducing irritation and inflammation. Your plan may include:

  • Taking medications. Medications may be prescribed reducing secretions and swelling. These help unblock the sinuses and allow them to drain. If bacterial infections are a problem, antibiotics may be prescribed.

  • Sinus irrigation (flushing with saltwater) may be suggested. This helps to clear out old mucus.

  • A plan to control allergies is helpful if they are present. This plan may include medications or allergy shots.

  • Surgery, in some cases. Surgery on the nose, sinuses, or both can improve sinus drainage or remove nasal obstructions.