Get the Facts: Chronic Sinusitis

Get the Facts: Chronic Sinusitis

Sinusitis is inflammation in the mucous membranes of the nose, sinuses and throat. Swelling blocks the sinus openings, causing fluid to build up in the sinuses, preventing normal drainage and allowing germs to grow in the sinuses and cause an infection. When sinusitis symptoms last 12 weeks or longer, the condition can be characterized as chronic sinusitis.

What causes it?

The purpose of the sinuses, which are hollow spaces in the skull, is to generate mucus to keep the nose from becoming too dry, and to trap allergens and other unwanted materials to prevent them from getting into the lungs. Drainage is essential to keeping your sinuses working. The common cold, allergic rhinitis, nasal polyps or a deviated septum may cause blockage of the sinuses. Obstruction of the sinuses can lead to a sinus infection, sinusitis and chronic sinusitis.

Who gets it?

It is estimated that chronic sinusitis results in seven million doctors visits each year. Individuals with these conditions may be at higher risk developing sinusitis:

  • Swelling in the nasal mucous membrane from a common cold
  • Blockage of the drainage ducts
  • Structural differences (such as deviated septum) that narrow the drainage ducts
  • Nasal polyps
  • Immune deficiencies due to other health conditions or medication
  • People with frequent infections
  • People who smoke
  • In children: allergies, illness from other children at school or daycare, pacifiers, drinking from a bottle while lying on their back, smoke in the environment

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of chronic sinusitis are the same as symptoms of acute sinusitis, but last longer than 12 weeks. These symptoms include:

  • Facial congestion
  • Nasal blockage
  • Fever
  • Nasal discharge
  • Pus in the naval cavity
  • Headaches
  • Bad breath
  • Fatigue
  • Dental pain

What are the treatment options?

Acute sinusitis may be treated with saline nasal sprays, antibiotics, nasal steroid sprays, decongestants and over-the-counter pain relievers. However, chronic sinusitis may not respond to conventional treatments. If your symptoms last longer than 12 weeks, your doctor may refer you to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor for treatment. One option for treatment of chronic sinusitis is Balloon Sinuplasty, a less-invasive procedure to open blocked sinus passages. Balloon Sinuplasty allows patients to return to normal activities more quickly.

Functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS) is another treatment that may be considered if other treatments fail, or nasal blockage cannot be corrected with medication. This procedure clears blocked sinuses to restore normal sinus drainage by removing bone and tissue to enlarge the sinus opening. This option may lead to pain, scarring and bleeding.

To find out if you are a candidate for Balloon Sinuplasty or FESS, contact the Dallas ENT doctors at Pine Creek Medical Center.