You know the pain. There isn’t anything as painful as a sinus infection, and when you have chronic sinusitis, it seems like the pain will never end. You work with your doctor to try and minimize the symptoms while fighting the infection, but there seems like there’s no relief in sight and you just have to live with the headaches, fog, congestion and fatigue day in and day out.
This guide can help you understand your options.
What Is Chronic Sinusitis?
Your sinuses are spaces inside your nose and head. There are 4 pairs of sinuses in your face, two above your eyes (frontal sinuses), two behind your eyes (sphenoid sinuses), two between your eyes (ethmoid sinuses), and two below your eyes (maxillary sinuses). When they become inflamed due to an infection, virus, irritant or allergy, it’s a condition called sinusitis.
You might have acute or chronic sinusitis. What’s the difference? If you have acute sinusitis, you get frequent sinus infections, but they resolve with treatment, such as antibiotics and last for a week or two. Chronic sinusitis is a sinus inflammation that lasts more than 12 weeks and medications only help minimally.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Chronic Sinusitis?
The most obvious sign that your sinus problem is chronic and not acute is that it lasts longer than 12 weeks even with rounds of antibiotics. However, you need to know the signs and symptoms of sinusitis to get the correct diagnosis. Here’s a look at some of the most common symptoms:
- Pain and pressure along your cheeks, behind, above, and under your eyes
- Frequent sneezing and a runny nose.
- Chronic Congestion
- Bouts of coughing
- Discolored nasal discharge
- Sinus headaches
- Upper teeth pain/pressure
- A loss or reduced sense of smell
While these aren’t the only symptoms, it’s the ones most typically displayed. You’ll need to consult your nose and sinus doctor for a diagnosis of sinusitis whether it’s chronic or acute.
What Are the Causes of Chronic Sinusitis?
Not everyone who gets a sinus infection ends up with chronic sinusitis. This makes you wonder what causes them and the risk factors involved to help you determine if your sinus problem might be a chronic condition. The most common causes include:
- Hay fever and other allergies: During allergy season, your sinuses become inflamed.
- Infection of the respiratory tract: Caused by either a virus, fungus or bacteria, a respiratory infection can cause inflammation of your sinuses.
- Nasal polyps: These are tissue growths that appear in the nasal passage or sinus cavities.
- Deviated septum: Inside your nose, there’s a thin wall that separates your nostrils, and it’s called a septum. If the wall is angled or crooked, it can block the sinus passages, causing an increase in sinusitis symptoms.
- Other medical conditions: Immune system-related diseases, including HIV and cystic fibrosis, can create a blockage in your nasal passages, leading to a sinus infection.
In addition to causes, you might have certain risk factors that make you more susceptible to sinus infections and chronic sinusitis. Their risk factors include:
- Second-hand smoke
- Allergies and hay fever
- Deviated septum
- Nasal polyps
- Sensitivity to aspirin
- Dental infection
- Exposure to pollutants
- Fungal infection
- An immune deficiency
If you suspect that you’re experiencing a chronic or acute sinus infection, you need to discuss it with your doctor. There are treatments and steps you can take to treat the symptoms and the condition.
How Do You Treat Chronic Sinusitis?
When you’ve had a sinus infection that seems never-ending, it’s easy to wonder if it’ll ever go away. Chronic sinusitis lasts 12 weeks and longer. This can be worn on you physically and emotionally.
Yes, chronic sinusitis does go away, but not on its own. You and your nose and sinus doctor will need a plan, and it might require a surgical procedure. Here’s everything you need to know:
Determine the Cause
In some cases, you need to isolate the cause of chronic sinusitis in order to cure it. Your sinus doctor will ask you about your medical history, any health issues, any habits like smoking or vaping, and might need to run some tests like a blood allergy test and have a nasal scope or sinus CT scan in the office.
The key to treating your chronic sinusitis might be to eliminate the cause of it. This could mean making lifestyle changes or having a minimally invasive surgical procedure.
Treat the Symptoms
Sinus headaches can be unbearable. Your sinus doctor will want to help you treat the symptoms while they’re identifying the cause and helping you resolve the chronic sinus infection. These treatments might include nasal steroid sprays and use of decongestants or rinses. Of course, you need a permanent solution.
If your chronic sinusitis is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics are almost always going to be the best course of treatment. However, your sinus doctor will identify the correct antibiotic by doing culture-directed therapy.
While you need to take all the medications to treat an infection, you want to let your doctor know if you don’t see improvement in a week. Your doctor might need to change your antibiotics or extend the length of the treatment.
Minimally Invasive Surgical Procedures
If the cause of your chronic sinusitis is physical, such as nasal polyps or a deviated septum, you might need a surgical procedure before antibiotics and other treatments can resolve the chronic sinusitis.
If you need better drainage to help you recover from chronic sinusitis, balloon sinuplasty can do this. Your sinus surgeon, Dr. Alen Cohen, inserts a balloon into your sinus passages and inflates it at strategic locations to provide better drainage. He will also remove any obstructions or shrink turbinates if necessary in a 30 minute procedure in the office under local anesthesia, just like going to a dentist.
Deviated septum repair
A septoplasty or deviated septum repair is a surgical procedure to straighten your septum. It’s done as an outpatient surgical procedure and takes around an hour to complete in Dr. Cohen’s expert hands and healing is over 3-4 days.
When you have nasal polyps, a polypectomy removes the polyps. This allows your sinuses to drain more easily and eliminates chronic sinusitis. This can be done by Dr. Cohen in both the office or outpatient surgical center depending on the extent and severity of the polyps.
Image-Guided Endoscopic sinus surgery
This surgical procedure can be done as an in-office or outpatient procedure in Dr. Cohen’s expert hands. With this procedure, your sinus doctor/surgeon removes scar tissue, polyps, or disease from the sinus cavities to treat chronic sinusitis.
By identifying and treating the underlying cause of chronic sinusitis, Dr. Alen Cohen, world renowned expert in nose and sinus issues, can help you beat it. The Southern California Sinus Institute is ready to help you treat and get rid of your chronic sinusitis. Contact us today with any questions or to schedule an appointment.