Treating Chronic Sinusitis

Front view of face showing sinuses.The sinuses are hollow areas formed by the bones of the face. Sinuses make and drain mucus. This keeps the nasal passages clean and moist. When the sinuses become inflamed (swollen) or infected, the condition is called sinusitis. Symptoms may include:

  • Thick discolored drainage from the nose

  • Nasal congestion

  • Pain and pressure around the eyes, nose, cheeks, or forehead

  • Headache

  • Cough

  • Postnasal drainage (thick mucus draining down the back of the throat)

  • Fever

  • Loss of smell

With chronic sinusitis, the symptoms last more than 12 weeks.


Ongoing prevention

It’s important to treat the cause of a sinus problem. If you have allergies, talk with your doctor about treatment. If you’re exposed to nasal irritants (such as sawdust), use a filter mask. If you smoke, ask your doctor for help with quitting. Smoke irritates the sinuses and can make your sinus problem worse.


Medications may include:

  • Antibiotic medications. You may need to take antibiotic medication for a longer period. If bacteria aren't the cause, antibiotics won't help.

  • Inhaled corticosteroid medication. Nasal sprays or drops with steroids are often prescribed.

  • Other medications. nasal sprays with antihistamines and decongestants, saltwater (saline) sprays or drops, or mucolytics, or expectorants (to loosen and clear mucus) may be prescribed.

  • Allergy shots (immunotherapy). If your child has nasal allergies, shots may help reduce your sensitivity to allergens such as pollen, dust mites, or mold.

 If your symptoms still do not improve, you may need further evaluation. This may include a CT (computed tomography) scan of the sinuses.


If other treatments don’t solve the problem, surgery may be recommended. The type of surgery depends on the cause of your sinusitis. It also depends on which sinuses are involved. Your doctor will tell you more about your options. The types of surgery include:

  • Endoscopic surgery. This is often used to clear blockages. The sinuses can then heal on their own. During the surgery, the doctor uses a thin, lighted tube (endoscope). The endoscope is put into the nose. It lets the doctor see into the sinuses. This surgery can be done without incisions on the face.

  • Open surgery. This is often used to clean out a sinus lining that is very damaged. It lets the doctor reach areas that an endoscope may not reach.