Chronic sinus infection is a common disease, which affects the nasal passages and the cavities around them. These swell for at least 12 weeks, even with active treatment. Chronic sinusitis can recur several times in a year. The affliction is also called chronic rhinosinusitis.
Chronic sinusitis hampers the normal drainage of the nasal passages. This causes mucus to build up, and add to the pain from nasal passage swelling. Inflammation can also spread to the eye area, cheekbones and temples. Headaches and throbbing facial aches are common.
The condition may be caused by a viral infection. It can also happen after exposure to allergens and pollutants. In some cases, chronic sinusitis is caused by the growth of nasal polyps, and uncommon conditions such as a deviated septum.
Chronic sinusitis affects adults, in general. In unusual cases, children may also suffer from it.
Chronic Sinus Symptoms
There are specific symptoms of chronic sinusitis that allow you to distinguish it from acute sinusitis, which is a temporary condition commonly caused by colds.
To diagnose for chronic sinus infection, at least two of the symptoms should be experienced.
- Aches and swelling in the facial area, including the cheeks, nose, forehead and eyes.
- Breathing problems caused by blockage of the nasal passages.
- Mucus discharges are either yellow or green, and are thick in consistency.
- Hampered ability to taste or smell.
Other than these symptoms, you may also experience sore throat, halitosis, nausea, general weakness, pain in the teeth and jaw area, and a cough that’s more severe during night time.
These symptoms lasts for more than 12 weeks, and can recur several times in a year.
Chronic Sinus Causes
The causes of chronic sinusitis are actually more complicated than the causes of acute sinusitis.
Normally, we associate sinusitis with an infection in the respiratory tract. Yes, the common cold can cause severe inflammation of the nasal passages. This blocks the bacteria from being drained out, causing more damage. Causes of this infection can be fungal, bacterial or viral.
Other causes of chronic sinusitis include tumors or polyps in the nasal area, exposure to allergens or pollutants, facial traumas and a deviated nasal septum, immune systems cells, such as eosinophils, and other physical conditions (HIV and other immune system conditions, cystic fibrosis, and GERD)
Risks Factors and Complications
There are risks factors and complications associated with chronic sinusitis.
When it comes to risk factors, people with these conditions are more likely to develop chronic sinusitis:
- Sensitivity to aspirin
- Allergic reaction, such as hay fever, that inflicts the sinuses
- Immune system medical conditions, such as cystic fibrosis and HIV
- Chronic pulmonary disease
- Deviated nasal septum
- Nasal tumors or polyps
- Regular exposure and allergic reaction to allergens and pollutants
If you already suffer from one of these risk factors, it is better to take steps to prevent from developing chronic sinusitis. Chronic sinusitis can lead to further complications. This includes meningitis or the infection of the fluid and membranes around the spinal cord and brain area. It can also cause aneurysms, asthma attacks and permanent or temporary visual impairment.
Getting Medical Help
Many people make the mistake of ignoring the symptoms of chronic sinusitis. Undiagnosed sinusitis can worsen your physical condition, and delay recovery.
When you’ve experienced sinusitis for more than one week, and more than once in a year, you should go see a doctor.
If your sinusitis does not go away after seeing a doctor and undergoing treatment, it can be a sign of chronic sinusitis. Report this to your doctor immediately, especially if you experience additional chronic sinusitis symptoms such as stiff neck, shortness of breath, severe headaches and facial swelling.
The sooner your chronic sinusitis is diagnosed, the better it is for your overall health.
When Seeing a Doctor
There are things to keep in mind once you’ve made an appointment to see a doctor.
Remember that for a doctor to make the best diagnosis of your condition, they should have all relevant information on hand. This includes:
- A list of all symptoms
- Timeline of when the symptoms occurred
- Progression of symptoms, especially if any of these worsened
- Other health conditionss, such as GERD, HIV etc
- Other respiratory conditions, such as cold
- Current allergies
- Lifestyle choice, ie. smoking or regular exposure to smoke
- Other current medications
Aside from this list, your doctor will also examine your nasal passages, nose, eyes, ears and throat.
Testing for Chronic Sinus Infection
Your doctor will be doing a physical examination of your affected areas. This includes inspecting for tenderness in the nose and throat area. Basic tools used here are a tongue depressor and a penlight. Sometimes, a topical medication is applied to constrict the blood vessels along the sinuses.
This can already detect whether you have a sinus infection. It can further diagnose other conditions such as nasal abnormalities and growth (polyps or tumors).
The doctor may also do a basic allergy test. This is just a skin test to pinpoint any allergies that may cause your sinusitis. This is done if your sinusitis is accompanied by an allergic attack.
Other testing tools can be used by the doctor. A nasal endoscopy may be inserted through the nose to see further into the sinuses. There is minor discomfort associated with this procedure. A CT scan or an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) can also be done if a more severe inflammation is suspected. The downside here is that the procedure is more costly.
Your doctor may also take samples of your sinus drainage and do nasal and sinus cultures. This is actually an invasive procedure wherein a needle is inserted into the wall of your sinus passage. Sometimes, anesthesia is used to lessen the pain. This test can help point to the cause of your condition by identifying the fungi or bacteria.
Once sinusitis is diagnosed, it is best to start treatment right away. Chronic sinusitis is a medical condition that also comes with social and emotional complications, not just physical.