Diagnosing and Treating Chronic Sinusitis

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Swedish Otolaryngology

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Chronic Sinusitis

In the video below Vincent Chan, M.D., otolaryngologist and head and neck surgeon at Swedish Medical Center, talks about the diagnosis of and treatment options for chronic sinusitis. 

To breathe though our noses, our sinuses need both ventilation and drainage. Inflammation that blocks our sinus passages is called sinusitis.

Far more intense than a common cold, people who suffer from sinusitis often describe the pressure as feeling like their face is about to crack. Two or three bouts of sinusitis a year is considered acute sinusitis.

In the U.S., one in 7 people get sinusitis. Common symptoms of sinusitis include nasal congestion, facial pressure and post-nasal drip.

A bout of sinusitis lasts from 10 days to a few months, and is often treated with antibiotics and frequent irrigation of the nose.

When symptoms persist for three months or more, the condition is considered chronic sinusitis.

Diagnosing Chronic Sinusitis

The first step in diagnosing chronic sinusitis is making sure a patient actually has sinusitis and not another ailment, such as headaches or allergies.

To determine whether someone has chronic sinusitis – rather than repeating bouts of acute sinusitis – CT imaging is often done to look at the structure of the sinuses.

Initial treatment includes a sufficiently long course of antibiotics – usually three weeks or longer, and/or oral steroid medication in tapering doses over a period of weeks.

If medications do not work, the next step may be to consider surgery.