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Chronic sinusitis is an infection or inflammation of the sinus that has lasted over 12 weeks without significant improvement, even with maximum medical management. Chronic sinusitis can be attributed to a variety of health conditions like recurrent rhinitis, allergic rhinitis, smoke inhalation, etc.
There are 4 pairs of healthy sinuses in the skull that help keep it light and perform other auxiliary functions. The maxillary sinuses, which are present in the paranasal area behind the maxillary bone, are most commonly affected by sinusitis. They secrete lubricating fluids that keep the nasal passages wet and prevent the entry of bacteria and viruses through the nasal cavity.
Normally, sinuses connect to the nasal passages and aid the airflow and drainage through them. They produce mucus that coats the nasal passages and protects them from infections. When sinuses are infected, they start producing infectious discharge that blocks the nasal passages and prevents the patient from breathing normally. This breathing issue often exacerbates at night, leading to obstructive sleep apnea, i.e., the inability to breathe while sleeping.
Any diagnostic or treatment procedure begins with a self-diagnosis by the patient. The patient should examine their symptoms closely and determine whether they should seek treatment. Often, acute sinusitis cases can be treated medically, but for chronic sinusitis, the patient often needs surgical treatment, for which proper diagnosis is necessary.
The ENT specialist will start the examination with your medical and illness history. Often, a detailed medical history is enough to confirm a chronic sinusitis diagnosis. However, thorough diagnostic tests are necessary for detailed treatment planning. Diagnostic tests for chronic sinusitis include:
Permanently lost or reduced smell sensation
Consistent inflammation of the nasal passages can result in damage to the olfactory nerve, which can result in reduction or loss of smelling sensation (anosmia).
Complications from breathing difficulties
Breathing difficulties over time can result in insomnia, fatigue, haziness, etc., affecting the overall quality of life of the patient.
Laryngitis is the inflammation and irritation of the voice box (larynx), which can lead to voice abnormalities, dry cough, and hoarseness.
It is the inflammation or infection of the tear sacs/ducts which happens when the sinus infection spreads to the eyes. It can lead to tearing, pain, redness, and swelling of the infected eye.
If the infection spreads to the eye, it can also lead to infection and inflammation of the eye socket, which can potentially lead to complete loss of vision if not treated immediately. It also causes fever, eye pain and swelling, redness and bulging of your eyelid, eyebrow, and cheek.
The infection can also spread to the brain and cause potential complications like cavernous sinus thrombosis, brain abscesses, meningitis, subdural abscesses, etc. These conditions are all potentially fatal if not managed immediately.
The infection can also spread to and infect the skull bones, particularly the frontal bone, also known as frontal bone osteomyelitis.
There are several risk factors for chronic sinusitis, which make it more likely to occur and difficult to treat. Common chronic sinusitis risk factors include a deviated nasal septum, history of sinusitis, asthma, dental or fungal infections, immune system disorders, rhinitis allergies, smoking, etc.
If you identify with one or more of the given risk factors, you should follow the precautionary tips given below to prevent chronic sinusitis:
Avoid contact with people who have upper respiratory infections like common cold, flu, etc. Wear a face mask around them as much as possible.