Commonly, sinusitis is acute. Acute sinusitis can be triggered by a cold or allergies, and it often goes away on its own. Its less-common relative, chronic sinusitis, can linger for months or longer and has symptoms that include loss of smell, congestion, and a runny nose. Patients who suffer from chronic sinusitis may wonder if there is a cure, and what treatments options are involved. Can it be treated or managed at home? Does it require surgery? Read on to learn more.
What is Chronic Sinusitis?
Chronic sinusitis involves sinusitis symptoms that last for twelve weeks or more. Even if the symptoms are not full-blown, once a patient has suffered for twelve weeks, it's considered "chronic" sinusitis. Chronic sinusitis is less likely to be a simple, straightforward infection, and less likely to go away with a treatment of traditional, simple antibiotics.
Can It Be Cured? What Are the Treatment Options?
Chronic sinusitis is more likely to be a "multifactorial" disease; which means there are more likely to be allergy issues, inflammatory issues, anatomical problems, polyps, and possibly other factors. With this in mind, patients and doctors should take a broader view of a potential treatment plan.
In short, chronic sinusitis can be cured but is likely to require some sort of ongoing medical treatment or plan.
To find out if a patient has chronic sinusitis, a doctor will first have to do a diagnostic work-up. Because of the multifactorial nature of the problem, they often have to look for anatomical and inflammation issues. This means testing with endoscopy, allergy testing, CT scans, and sometimes cultures if there is chronic pus flow that does not stop with antibiotics.
If the patient has significant allergies, an allergy management plan becomes very important: nasal steroid sprays, antihistamine pills, and allergy shots. If there are persistent or resistant bacteria, there may be long-term antibiotic treatments. Inflammation, which can be caused by irritants, allergens, fungus, or viruses, may require steroids to encourage draining. In some cases, the patient may consider sinus surgery to fully treat their chronic sinusitis.
Trying to find the main cause of chronic sinusitis is the challenge faced by doctors and patients alike. Some people are simply prone to chronic infections. Others have allergies so severe that polyps develop, creating further issues.
While chronic sinusitis is only sometimes curable, it's almost always improvable with ongoing treatment such as allergy shots and nasal steroids.
Improving Chronic Sinusitis Symptoms
If your only sinus symptoms are headaches or migraines, they may not be sinusitis at all, or even related to the sinuses. They may possibly be neurological. On the other hand, if you are suffering from sinus symptoms, there are a few steps you can take before consulting a specialist:
- Nasal steroid sprays
- Nasal and sinus rinses
- OTC allergy medicine
- A round or two of antibiotics from primary care doctor
If you try (or have tried) these solutions for a few weeks, and still see no improvement, or if you see recurrent sinus infections every two to three months, then it may be time to see a specialist.