Chronic sinusitis – Inflammation of the sinuses

Many patients suffer from a long term sinus infection - an inflammation of the mucosa lining the nasal cavities. Chronic sinusitis is a persistent sinus infection that repetitively reoccurs over longer periods.

During sinusitis one or more sinuses are infected.

The sinuses are cavities in the facial bones of the skull that surround the nose. They are directly connected to the nasal cavity. The different cavities make up the maxilliary, frontal, sphenoid and ethymoid sinuses.

Just like the nose, these cavities are lined with mucosa, which serves to moisten the circulating air and protect the underlying tissue from germs and pathogens. This mucosa becomes inflamed during the common cold as well as during sinusitis.

Chronic Sinusitis: Symptoms

Patients who suffer from chronic sinusitis are very familiar with the symptoms below: swollen mucosa, the feeling of excessive pressure on the skull (especially when bending down and picking something up), difficult breathing due to excessive mucous, sleepiness, lack of energy and general listlessness.

The typical symptoms of chronic sinusitis are

  • headaches
  • cold (with yellow nasal secretions)
  • cough 
  • pain in the sinuses
  • fatigue/tiredness/listlessness

Chronic sinusitis: Causes

The cause of acute sinusitis is usually a bacterial infection. Sinus infection often results as a side effect of the common cold, when increased formation of secretions by the sinus mucosa leads to blockage of the entrance to the sinuses. As a result, the sinuses are not adequately ventilated anymore and the drainage of secretions from the sinuses is disrupted. This leads to increased growth of germs in the sinuses which causes inflammation of the mucosa in the sinuses.

Chronic sinusitis is different to acute sinusitis. Patients with chronic sinusitis suffer from constant symptoms. A cold can additionaly trigger increased symptoms however it is not the underlying cause.

The causes of chronic sinusitis are often related to the anatomy of the individual sinuses which result in particularly narrow entrances to the sinuses. A warped nasal septum, a large turbinate, or benign mucosa overgrowth (also known as polyps) can be the cause of recurring sinus problems. An ordinary cold can be sufficient to trigger a severe episode of sinusitis in such patients.

The different types of chronic sinus inflammation:

  • Sinusitis ethmoidalis: Inflammation of the ethmoid sinuses in the ethmoid bone between nose and eyes
  • Sinusitis frontalis: Inflammation of the sinuses below the forehead
  • Sinusitis maxillaris: Inflammation of the sinuses below the jawbones
  • Sinusitis sphenoidalis: Inflammation of the sinuses of the sphenoid bone at the centre of the skull
  • Pansinusitis or Polysinusitis: Simultaneous inflammation of all sinuses

Chronic Sinusitis - Treatment

Which treatments help when suffering from sinusitis? Chronic sinusitis in particular is known to be resistant to therapy, however, taking the right measures can reduce symptoms of chronic sinusitis considerably. [ more ]