Chronic Sinusitis

Chronic sinusitis is characterized by nasal congestion, postnasal drip, facial pressure, and other symptoms lasting longer than 12 weeks, despite treatment. Although the exact cause is still unknown, this long-term sinus inflammation is more likely to occur in people with risk factors such as asthma or allergies. Bacteria are no longer believed to be the main cause. Treatment options include medications, nasal irrigation, and/or surgery.

What Is Chronic Sinusitis?

Healthcare providers define chronic sinusitis as an inflammatory condition involving the paranasal sinuses that lasts 12 weeks or longer, despite treatment. The condition can affect anyone, regardless of age or gender. It is more common in young or middle-aged adults, although children can also be affected.
Because the nasal passages are usually also affected, you might hear healthcare providers use the terms "chronic sinusitis" and "chronic rhinosinusitis" interchangeably.

Inflammation Versus Infection

Healthcare providers used to believe that an infection was the main cause of chronic sinusitis. Therefore, treatment would involve long periods of antibiotics. However, further research has shown that, in most cases, chronic sinusitis is caused by inflammation.
Thus, treatment is focused on controlling the inflammation and swelling in the long-term. Antibiotics are used to control any infections that might occur along with the inflammation.

Types of Chronic Sinusitis

Healthcare providers have defined three types of chronic sinusitis:
  • Chronic rhinosinusitis without nasal polyposis (polyps)
  • Chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyposis (polyps)
  • Allergic fungal chronic rhinosinusitis.
Chronic rhinosinusitis without nasal polyposis is the most common form. About two in every three people have this type of chronic sinusitis. Each of these different types has different risk factors, along with different treatment plans.
(Click Sinusitis Types for more information on the different types and who is at risk for each type.)
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