Sinusitis is a catchall phrase that describes any chronic inflammation or swelling of the sinuses. The term Chronic Sinusitis refers to any such inflammation that lasts longer than two to three weeks.

Despite what most people think, sinusitis is not an infection. Instead, it is a condition that can be caused by an infection. It can actually be caused by a number of factors, including some very serious health problems. Unfortunately, some of these problems can severely damage the body and lead to paralysis or death if left untreated.

Therefore sinusitis is not a condition to be treated lightly or ignored. Even healthy people can be affected by it, so everybody needs to know about chronic sinusitis.

What Are the Symptoms of Chronic Sinusitis?

This means that you should be on the lookout for the symptoms of chronic sinusitis, which can include:

  • Difficulty breathing through your nose

  • Earaches

  • Coughing, particularly at night

  • Aches and pains in your forehead, nose, and cheeks

  • A sudden reduction in your senses of smell and taste

  • Pain or soreness in your teeth and jaw

  • Bad breath

  • Fatigue – sudden tiredness

  • Insomnia – difficulty sleeping or getting a good night’s sleep

  • Nausea – upset stomach

  • Irritability – bad attitude

  • An inability to perform at work or school or to concentrate

  • Large amounts of nasal discharge or mucus

Complications of Chronic Sinusitis

Chronic sinusitis should never be ignored, because it can be a symptom of more serious health problems or even the cause of such problems. Persons that ignore chronic sinusitis could be putting themselves at risk for serious health problems, including:

  • Meningitis – a dangerous infection that affects the brain and the nervous system. Left untreated, meningitis can lead to paralysis and even death.

  • Orbital Cellulitis – a destructive skin and eye infection that can cause abscesses and blindness.

  • Osteomyelitis – a bone infection that can lead to pain and paralysis. In really serious cases, the only treatment for this infection is amputation.

  • Respiratory Infections such as pneumonia – contagions that can damage the lungs and cause serious breathing problems or death.

  • Damage to the nose and mouth leading to loss of smell and taste.

  • Making respiratory problems such as asthma and allergies worse.

  • Brain damage, including abscesses.

  • Mental health problems caused by brain damage.

When to See a Doctor

Naturally, many people wonder when they should seek medical help for sinusitis. The best answer to this question is to seek medical help when sinusitis starts interfering with your life and your normal activities.

Some indications that you should see a doctor for sinusitis include the following:

  • It causes severe pain that interferes in your daily activities. This can include a bad headache

  • It causes swelling on the forehead or around the eyes

  • You feel pain in your eyes

  • Your vision changes, particularly if you have double vision or trouble with everyday activities like typing or driving

  • You have trouble breathing or experience shortness of breath

  • You have mental problems, such as confusion or a sudden inability to concentrate

  • You experience neck pain or a stiff neck

  • You have other serious health problems, such as asthma, or chronic conditions, such as diabetes.

These are signs that the infection is spreading to other parts of your body and requires immediate treatment. If you cannot get in to see a doctor, go to an outpatient clinic, a hospital, or even an emergency room for help if the symptoms are severe.

What Causes Chronic Sinusitis?

Contrary to popular belief, sinusitis is not always caused by an infection. Infections are the most common cause of this condition, but it can be a result of other problems, including:

  • Injuries to the face or the nose. If your nose or the bones in your face have ever been broken, you could be at greater risk for sinusitis.

  • Nasal polyps. These are growths that block the nasal passages and the sinuses. They will have to be removed by surgery.

  • Allergies. Sinusitis can be triggered by seasonal allergies like hay fever and by allergic reactions to dust and fungi.

  • A deviated naval septum. The septum is the wall between the nostrils. If it is misshaped, it can cause sinusitis. This problem can be created by birth defects or injuries. It can only be corrected by surgery.

  • Immune system disorders. Any health problems that can affect the immune system can cause sinusitis. Such disorders are usually characterized by inflammation elsewhere in the body, such as arthritis.

  • Respiratory infection. Any respiratory infection, including colds, the flu, and pneumonia, can spread to the sinuses. Some infections can trigger an allergic reaction that makes the problem worse.

  • Other health problems. Sinusitis is sometimes an effect of other serious health problems, including cystic fibrosis, cancer, and devastating infections such as HIV.

Risk Factors for Chronic Sinusitis

Some people are more at risk for chronic sinusitis than others. Persons with certain risk factors should be more aware of the condition and seek medical help for it. These factors can include:

  • Asthma. If you have asthma or have had it in the past, you could be more at risk for chronic sinusitis.

  • A history of having reactions to aspirin or other pain relievers that contain it.

  • Smoking or regular exposure to tobacco smoke.

  • Regular exposure to pollutants such as smoke, dust, exhaust fumes, and smog.

What Are the Treatments for Chronic Sinusitis?

Home Remedies for Chronic Sinusitis

There are some highly effective home remedies for sinusitis available. If you have a minor case, these remedies can relieve the symptoms. Some very popular and highly effective treatments for sinusitis include:

  • Getting plenty of rest. Taking time off from work and other activities and engaging in relaxing activities like reading, listening to music, watching TV, taking a bath, or meditating can help you recover from inflammation. The best way to get rest is to get a good night’s sleep, usually eight to nine hours.

  • Drinking lots of fluids, such as herb tea, water, and juice, or eating soup. This can dilute mucus and make the condition better. Caffeine-containing beverages (coffee, soda pop, energy drinks) should be avoided because they can dehydrate and simulate you, making the situation worse. Alcohol should be avoided too because it can make inflammation worse.

  • Moisturize your sinuses. There are several means of doing this, including operating a humidifier, breathing in the vapor from a bowl of water, or taking a hot bath or shower.

  • Put warm, moist compresses or towels over your face. This can moisturize your sinuses and relieve pain.

  • Clean out your nasal passages. There are many products available for this at drugstores. You can also create your own rinse with warm salt water if you wish.

  • Sleep and rest with your head elevated. This can help your sinuses drain out faster and reduce congestion.

  • A simple massage. This video demonstrates a basic massage that can relieve congestion and some of the pain of sinusitis:

Medical Treatments for Chronic Sinusitis

These techniques are only designed to deal with minor cases of sinusitis. If you have a serious case, especially one that is affecting your brain or causing a lot of pain, you should seek medical help quickly.

There are some effective treatments for chronic sinusitis available, including:

  • Antibiotic and antifungal drugs that can clear up some infections. These should be used sparingly to prevent the spread of antibiotic resistant pathogens.

  • Antihistamines and allergy shots, which can control allergies that can cause sinusitis.

  • Corticosteroid nasal sprays and decongestants that can reduce inflammation.

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs, including the pain relievers ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen sodium (Aleve), which can reduce swelling and pain.

  • Surgery. Some causes of sinusitis, including polyps, a deviated nasal septum, and damage to the sinuses, can only be treated by surgery.

Some of these products are available over the counter, but others are only available with a doctor’s prescription. If the sinusitis does not clear up within two weeks or gets worse, you should see a doctor. If the problem is serious, you should consider seeing a nose and throat specialist because such physicians are better equipped to deal with it.

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