What is chronic sinusitis?

Sinusitis occurs when there is inflammation of the sinuses due to a bacterial, fungal or viral infection. Chronic sinusitis, also known as rhino-sinusitis, is when this inflammation endures for over 11 weeks, even with treatment. Chronic inflammation causes significant problems with nasal drainage, leading to mucous build-up. This blockage allows bacteria and germs to grow within the nasal passages. Chronic sinusitis is caused by several different factors, including the presence of nasal polyps or tumors, a deviated septum, nasal bone spur, allergies, nasal injury, and respiratory tract infection [source: Mayo Clinic].

The symptoms of acute and chronic sinusitis are very similar. A diagnosis of chronic sinusitis is only made, however, if you present with two or more of the following symptoms: thick yellow or green nasal discharge, nasal congestion, eye, nose or cheek pain or tenderness, and reduced ability to smell or taste [source: Mayo Clinic]. Other common symptoms of both acute and chronic sinusitis include bad breath, coughing, fatigue, fever, headache, sore throat, postnasal discharge, ear pain, upper jaw or teeth pain, and nausea. Fever is more common with acute sinusitis than with chronic sinusitis.

Treatment for chronic sinusitis includes nondrug options, such as saline nasal spray, rest, drinking fluids, warm compress to the face, and sleep. Typically, however, chronic sinusitis is treated with both prescription and over-the-counter medication. Nasal, oral, or injected corticosteroids help decrease and prevent inflammation. Corticosteroids are especially helpful if you have nasal polyps. Long-term use of corticosteroids, however, is not recommended due to serious side effects. Over-the-counter decongestants and pain relievers help relieve the symptoms of chronic sinusitis. Antibiotics may be necessary if your chronic sinusitis is caused by a bacterial infection. Immunotherapy, or allergy shots, is recommended if your chronic sinusitis is allergy related.