Chronic sinusitis is a long-term swelling or infection of the sinuses. If sinusitis lasts more than 12 weeks, it is called chronic.
Sinuses are air-filled spaces in the skull behind the face. They are kept moist and clean by a lining of mucosa. Things such as pollen, smoke, and chemical fumes can irritate the mucosa. Constant exposure to irritants can cause ongoing inflammation of this lining. It can also damage tiny hairlike cilia that cover the mucosa. Cilia help transport mucus toward the opening of the sinus. Damage to cilia keeps mucus from draining from the sinuses.
Problems that irritate the mucosa or block drainage can lead to chronic sinusitis. These may include:
Nasal polyps, deviated septum, or other obstructions
Constant exposure to irritants, such as cigarette smoke or fumes
Symptoms may include:
Facial pain and pressure
Headache and sinus pain
Thick, colored drainage from the nose
Postnasal drainage (thick mucus draining down the back of the throat)
Loss of smell
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. The doctor will examine your nose and face. You may have imaging studies like an X-ray or CT scan of the sinuses. You may also have a culture of the drainage to check for bacteria. And, a test called an endoscopy may be done. During this test, a lighted tube is put through your nose up into your sinuses to view the sinuses.
Treatment involves reducing irritation and inflammation. Your plan may include:
Taking medications. Medications may be prescribed reduce secretions and swelling. These help unblock the sinuses and allow them to drain. Antibiotics are prescribed for bacterial infections.
Sinus irrigation (flushing with saltwater or saline solution) may be suggested. This helps to clear out mucus.
A plan to control allergies is helpful if they are present. This plan may include medications or allergy shots.
Surgery, in some cases. Surgery on the nose, sinuses, or both can improve sinus drainage or remove nasal obstructions.