Chronic Sinusitis - What is it?

By: Rakhi Kaptiyal

The proper medical term to describe this condition is rhinosinusitis, since it affects the mucous membranes, which line the nose (rhino refers to nose) and the sinus cavities in question. The onset of sinusitis means:

Constant dull, throbbing headaches

A stuffy nose

Thick yellowish-green colored nasal discharge

Facial pain when moving the head or sitting / standing up

Difficulty in breathing

Impaired smell and taste

Stiffness in the neck

Swelling around the eyes and nose

Constant fatigue due to impaired breathing

Based on its duration, sinusitis can be classified as acute or chronic. Acute sinusitis may crop up several times within a single year, mostly during the season changes, but it usually disappears within a few weeks at the most.

Chronic sinusitis refers to the condition where the mucous membranes lining the sinus cavity are inflamed and swell up for a much longer time period, a month being the least duration. The onset of sinusitis and the resulting inflammation causes the sinuses and the nose to block up, making it impossible for any mucus to drain out. This often results in bacterial accumulation and consequent infection of the cavity, leading to further sinus related problems.

Sinusitis is considered chronic if the symptoms do not abate for more than 12 weeks. Bilateral chronic sinusitis, which affects both sides of the nose, can be classified into two major types:

Without polyps This type of chronic sinusitis involves the swelling of mucous membranes, but no polyp formation. Polyps are non-cancerous or benign growths, which may obstruct the nose and sinuses, along with the inflammation in the lining.

With polyps The mucous membranes lining the sinus cavities are not only swollen but polyps also form, increasing the requirements for immediate medical attention considerably.

The cause of chronic sinusitis has not been accurately determined till date, but there has been a great narrowing down of the possible causes. This is because of the variable responses people have to possible allergens, which may contribute to the onset of chronic sinusitis. However, there are some factors which can aggravate chronic sinusitis or accelerate its onset, like:

Acute sinusitis which has not healed completely

Allergies and immune system disorders

Deviated nasal septa or other irregularities in the nose caused by trauma

Lifestyle choices, like alcohol or smoking, and even urban pollution play a significant role

Enlarged nasal polyps obstructing the sinus and nasal cavities, disallowing adequate ventilation and providing a fertile breeding ground for germs to grow in

Chronic sinusitis can be caused by a variety of reasons and is diagnosed usually once a certain set of its myriad symptoms is confirmed or through physical inspection. There are many methods of medical recourse available, ranging from natural treatments to surgery. Deciding which one to opt for is best done after careful consideration and diagnosis by a qualified doctor or ENT physician.

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