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Chronic Sinusitis


Healthgrades Editorial Staff

What is chronic sinusitis?

Sinusitis, commonly called a sinus infection, is inflammation (with or without infection) of the air-filled spaces that are located within the bones in and around the nose (paranasal sinuses). This results in swelling of the mucus membranes that line the sinuses, pain and pressure in and around the eyes and cheekbones, and a thick green discharge from the nose.

Generally, chronic sinusitis is diagnosed when symptoms of sinusitis persist for longer than 12 weeks despite treatment. In chronic sinusitis, also called chronic rhinosinusitis, the mucous membranes in the nose and paranasal sinuses are constantly inflamed and become thickened. The inflamed membranes can be seen upon examination of the inside of your nose by your health care provider.

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According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, chronic sinusitis is one of the most common chronic illnesses in people younger than 45 years of age in the United States (Source: AAAAI).

In contrast to acute sinusitis, most health experts believe that chronic sinusitis is not an infectious disease. However, if you suffer from frequent episodes of acute sinusitis, you are at risk for developing chronic sinusitis.

Treatment for chronic sinusitis varies depending on the underlying cause and your medical history. Treatment may include a humidifier, medications, or possibly surgery. Surgery should be considered when medical treatment fails or when an injury, structural problem, or obstruction is present. Chronic sinusitis with nasal polyps is a common reason for sinus surgery.

Sometimes, chronic sinusitis may be a sign of a serious underlying disease, disorder or condition. Seek prompt medical care if you have symptoms of sinusitis that are unexplained, do not respond to treatment as expected, last longer than 14 days, or recur.

In some cases, sinusitis can spread from the sinuses to the nervous system and lead to life-threatening infections and complications, such as meningitis or brain abscess. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have symptoms of sinusitis that are accompanied by a change in alertness or consciousness, high fever, seizure, severe headache, or a stiff neck.