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Symptoms and Causes of Chronic Sinusitis

written by: Charlotte Raynor • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 1/12/2011

Learn about what chronic sinusitis is, the symptoms of chronic sinusitis and the causes of chronic sinusitis. Chronic sinusitis, if left untreated, can lead to serious and possibly even life-threatening conditions.

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    What is Chronic Sinusitis?

    Chronic sinusitis is a common medical condition characterized by the long-term, recurring or ongoing inflammation of the cavities around the sinuses or nasal passages. These air-filled spaces that are located in the bones in and around the nose can become swollen. The mucus membranes that line the sinuses swell and cause pressure and pain around and in the cheekbones and the eyes.

    Chronic sinusitis is different from acute sinusitis in the fact that this condition can last twelve weeks or longer, even though different treatments may be used to alleviate it. Acute sinusitis does not last very long and does not come back. Chronic sinusitis is also known as chronic rhinosinusitis, and since it gets in the way of drainage, it causes the mucus to build up. The symptoms of chronic sinusitis include trouble breathing through the nose along with aching facial pain and maybe even a headache.

    Acute and chronic sinusitis can both be caused by a bacterial infection, viral infection and sometimes by a fungal infection of the sinuses. Some of the causes of chronic sinusitis are asthma, nasal tumors, nasal polyps, a deviated nasal septum and allergies. Chronic sinusitis can affect children, but it usually affects young to middle-aged adults.

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    Symptoms of Chronic Sinusitis

    Some people that develop chronic sinusitis are affected differently than other people, but the main symptoms are usually same. Some of the usual symptoms of chronic sinusitis may include:

    • Pressure or pain in the face or the area in and around the eyes, nose or forehead
    • Thick, greenish or yellowish discharge from the nose or down the back of the throat
    • Fatigue
    • Obstruction or congestion in the nasal area that can cause the individual to have difficulty breathing through the nose or complain of a stuffy nose.
    • Swelling around the nose, eyes and eyelids
    • Noticing a lowered sense of taste or smell
    • Headache and pain might be worse when the person is lying down or bending over.
    • Pain may also feel like a toothache in the upper jaw.
    • Cough, sore throat, bad breath and ear pain

    Fever is common with acute sinusitis, but not with chronic sinusitis. Chronic sinusitis can lead to critical, possibly life threatening problems. The infection that brings about chronic asthma can extend from the sinuses into the brain and result in meningitis. By the infection spreading, it can also bring about loss of vision, blindness and a stroke. Additionally the asthma can get worse and cause more recurrent asthma attacks.

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    Causes of Chronic Sinusitis

    The underlying conditions or causes of chronic sinusitis include:

    • Nasal polyps or tumors. These kinds of tissue growths might obstruct the nasal passages or sinuses.
    • Allergies, for example hay fever. Allergies cause inflammation and that may obstruct the sinuses.
    • Allergic reactions. An example of this would be fungal infection of the sinuses.
    • Nasal abnormality
    • Deviated nasal septum. A curved septum, which is the wall between the nostrils, may obstruct the sinus passages.
    • Cystic fibrosis
    • Any kind of trauma to the face. A broken or fractured bone in the face might cause blockage of the sinus passages.
    • Respiratory tract infections. The most common example of this is the common cold which can cause inflammation and thicken the sinus membranes, obstructing mucus drainage and produce conditions perfect for the growth of bacteria. These kinds of infections can be bacterial, viral or fungal in nature.
    • Enlarged adenoids
    • Primary Immune Deficiency
    • Immune system cells. Certain types of health conditions cause immune cells called eosinophils and they can cause sinus inflammation.
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    References

    Chronic Sinusitis. (n.d.). Retrieved January 3, 2011, from WrongDiagnosis.com: http://www.wrongdiagnosis.com/c/chronic_sinusitis/intro.htm

    Mayo Clinic Staff. (2010, October 12). Symptoms. Retrieved January 3, 2011, from MayoClinic.com: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/chronic-sinusitis/DS00232/DSECTION=symptoms