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Chronic Sinusitis

When someone has a stuffy, runny nose and a headache, they may wonder whether it is a cold, an allergy, or a sinus infection. Though most people are familiar with these symptoms, it may be confusing when the symptoms don't disappear as expected. What many people don't realize is that there is a variety of sinus-related illnesses that can extend beyond a simple temporary or acute sinus problem. Sinusitis is the overarching term that covers all forms of sinus illness.

Chronic sinusitis is a type of sinusitis in which symptoms of the illness persist or recur periodically. By definition, chronic sinusitis should last longer than several months. Normally, a sinus infection, or sinusitis, will last about 8-10 days. If your symptoms last longer than 10 days or frequently recur, then it is possible that you are dealing with chronic sinusitis.

Chronic sinusitis can be caused by a variety of factors but is divided into two categories: with or without polyps. While nasal polyps are not fully understood, they are always benign, may have a genetic component and are thought to be caused by allergic or environmental factors. Chronic sinusitis without polyps is often the result of abnormally narrow sinus passages. This could be the result of a deviated septum or other conditions that impede sinus drainage. In either case, the symptoms are similar, though the treatments can vary.

Just as there are various forms of chronic sinusitis, there are also a variety of treatments available. Polyps can be treated medically and surgically, and a combined approach is often required for best relief. Surgery alone often results in the recurrence of the polyps. Often oral corticosteroids are needed and used in conjunction with other treatments to modify the severity of the condition. Narrow or inflamed sinus passages can often be improved surgically.

Among the subtypes of chronic sinusitis, one particular type stands out—that is the one known as allergic fungal sinusitis. Allergic fungal sinusitis is an increasingly recognized form of chronic sinusitis that stems from fungus growth in the sinuses, and has very specific features and treatments.