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What is chronic sinusitis?

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.

How does chronic sinusitis affect breathing?

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.

Causes

  • Nasal polyps
  • Deviated nasal septum
  • Medical conditions that affect the immune system, like cystic fibrosis, HIV infection, etc.
  • Respiratory tract infections
  • Allergic rhinitis, e.g., hay fever

Symptoms

  • Nasal swelling with thick, discolored discharge
  • Postnasal drainage
  • Nasal congestion
  • Pain, tenderness, and inflammation in the eyes, cheeks, nose, and forehead
  • Decreased taste and smelling sensations
  • Pain in the ear, upper jaw, or teeth
  • Sore throat with consistent coughing
  • Fatigue and migraines

Symptoms

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.

Risks of untreated chronic sinusitis

  • 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).

  • Preventions of sinus

    Prevention

    Preventions of sinus

    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.

    • Wash your hands frequently, especially before meals. Carry a hand sanitizer with you to maintain hygiene and cleanliness.
    • Avoid allergens and other contaminants, like smoke, dust, exhaust fumes, etc., that can inflame your lungs and airway.
  • If you live in dry or arid regions, use a humidifier to moisten the air in your surroundings.

  • If you get sinus infections even after following these precautions, contact an ENT specialist immediately to avoid chronic sinusitis and its complications.