Chronic sinusitis is a common condition in which the cavities around nasal passages (sinuses) become inflamed and swollen – for at least eight weeks, despite treatment attempts.
Also known as chronic rhinosinusitis, this condition interferes with drainage and causes mucus to build up. If you have chronic sinusitis, it may be difficult to breathe through your nose. The area around your eyes and face may feel swollen, and you may have throbbing facial pain or a headache.
Chronic sinusitis may be caused by an infection, but it can also be caused by growths in the sinuses (nasal polyps) or by a deviated nasal septum. Chronic sinusitis most commonly affects young and middle-aged adults, but it also can affect children.
Signs and Symptoms
Chronic sinusitis and acute sinusitis have similar signs and symptoms, but acute sinusitis is a temporary infection of the sinuses often associated with a cold. At least two of the following signs and symptoms must be present for a diagnosis of chronic sinusitis:
- Drainage of a thick, yellow or greenish discharge from the nose or down the back of the throat
- Nasal obstruction or congestion, causing difficulty breathing through your nose
- Pain, tenderness and swelling around your eyes, cheeks, nose or forehead
- Reduced sense of smell and taste
Other signs and symptoms can include:
- Ear pain
- Aching in your upper jaw and teeth
- Cough, which may be worse at night
- Sore throat
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Fatigue or irritability
The signs and symptoms of chronic sinusitis are similar to acute sinusitis, except they last longer and often cause more significant fatigue. Fever isn’t a common sign of chronic sinusitis, as it may be with acute sinusitis.
There are four types of sinuses – maxillary (behind the cheek bones), ethmoid (between the eyes), frontal (in the forehead) and sphenoid (behind the eyes). All of these sinuses can be affected by sinusitis. The majority of cases involve the maxillary and ethmoid sinuses.
When to see a doctor
You may have several episodes of acute sinusitis, lasting less than four weeks, before developing chronic sinusitis. If you are suffering from chronic sinusitis and need treatment from an ear, nose, and throat physician, visit your primary care doctor and ask for a referral.