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Chronic sinusitis – Symptoms and causes

Chronic sinusitis is a long – lasting sinus infection. We know that sinuses are four paired cavities (spaces) in the head. These cavities are connected by narrow channels. Sinuses are making thin mucus which drains out of the channels of the nose. This drainage is working as a filtration system and it keeps nose clean and free of bacteria. When sinuses are blocked and filled with fluid, then they can become infected and this condition is known as sinusitis.

There are two types of sinusitis – acute and chronic sinusitis. The acute sinusitis lasts only a few days before going away with minimal treatment. It can linger over a long period, usually more than 12 weeks. In severe cases of chronic sinusitis, surgery is needed sometimes. It is very important to minimize or avoid contact with people who have cold, so in this way you will reduce your chances of getting chronic sinusitis. You should wash your hands frequently with soap and water, especially before meals, so you will reduce your chances of getting chronic sinusitis.

does chronic sinusitis ever go away

Chronic sinusitis Symptoms

The most common signs and symptoms of chronic sinusitis include:

  • Reduced sense of smell and taste
  • Nasal inflammation
  • A pain, tenderness and swelling around your eyes, cheeks, nose or forehead
  • Thick, discolored discharge from the nose
  • A nasal obstruction or congestion, causing difficulty breathing through your nose
  • Drainage down the back of the throat (postnasal drainage)

But, there can be other signs and symptoms, such as

  • Fatigue
  • Ear pain
  • Bad breath
  • Sore throat
  • Cough or throat clearing
  • Aching in your upper jaw and teeth

The chronic sinusitis and acute sinusitis have similar signs and symptoms, but it is a temporary infection of the sinuses and it is often associated with a cold. You need to know that the signs and symptoms of chronic sinusitis last at least twelve weeks, but you can have several episodes of acute sinusitis, before developing it. Fever is not a common sign of it, but you may have it with acute sinusitis. If you have had sinusitis a number of times and if this condition does not respond to treatment, then you should see your doctor as soon as possible.

Also, if you have sinusitis symptoms that last for more than ten days, then make an appointment with your doctor. If your symptoms do not improve after you have seen your doctor, then you should visit your doctor as soon as possible.

Chronic sinusitis Causes

Here are the most common causes of chronic sinusitis:

  • Allergies: Allergies, such as hay fever can cause chronic sinusitis. The inflammation which happens with allergies can block your sinuses. [1]
  • Nasal polyps: These are tissue growths which can block sinuses or nasal passages. [2]
  • Respiratory tract infections: Infections which happen in your respiratory tract (most commonly colds), can inflame and thicken your sinus membranes and block the mucus drainage. These infections can be fungal, bacterial or viral. [3]
  • Deviated nasal septum: It is known that a crooked septum (this is the wall between the nostrils) can restrict or block sinus passages, which is making the symptoms of sinusitis worse. [4]
  • Other medical conditions: It is known that complications of conditions, such as HIV, cystic fibrosis and other immune system – related diseases can lead to nasal blockage.

Risk factors

There are some factors which can increase your risk of getting chronic sinusitis, such as

  • Regular exposure to pollutants, such as cigarette smoke [5]
  • A deviated septum
  • Aspirin sensitivity [6]
  • Hay fever or another allergic condition [1]
  • Nasal polyps [2]
  • Certain immune system disorder, such as HIV/AIDS or cystic fibrosis
  • A dental infection
  • Asthma [7]


There are rare cases when chronic sinusitis can cause complications, but when they happen, they can include:

  • Infections: There are rare cases when people with chronic sinusitis can develop inflammation of the membranes and fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord (known as meningitis), an infection in the bones or a serious skin infection. [8]
  • Vision problems: If the chronic sinusitis spreads to the eye socket, then it can cause reduced vision or possibly blindness which can be permanent. [9]


[1] Kennedy JL, Borish L. Chronic sinusitis pathophysiology: The role of allergy. American Journal of Rhinology & Allergy. 2013;27(5):367–71. doi:10.2500/ajra.2013.27.3906

[2] Stevens WW, Schleimer RP, Kern RC. Chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyps. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice. 2016;4(4):565–72. doi:10.1016/j.jaip.2016.04.012

[3] Kumpitsch C, Koskinen K, Schopf V, Moissl-Eichinger C. The microbiome of the upper respiratory tract in health and disease. BMC Biology. 2019;17.

[4] Mohebbi A, Ahmadi A, Etemadi M, et al. An epidemiologic study of factors associated with nasal septum deviation by computed tomography scan: a cross sectional study. BMC Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders. 2012;12:15. doi:10.1186/1472-6815-12-15

[5] Reh DD, Higgins TS, Smith TL. Impact of tobacco smoke on chronic rhinosinusitis – A review of the literature. International Forum of Allergy & Rhinology. 2012;2(5):362–9. doi:10.1002/alr.21054

[6] Graefe H, Roebke C, Schäfer D, Meyer JE. Aspirin sensitivity and chronic rhinosinusitis with polyps: A fatal combination. Journal of Allergy. 2012.

[7] Rosati MG, Peters AT. Relationships among allergic rhinitis, asthma, and chronic rhinosinusitis. American Journal of Rhinology & Allergy. 2016;30(1):44–7. doi:10.2500/ajra.2016.30.4252

[8] Ah-See KW, Evans AS. Sinusitis and its management. BMJ. 2007;334(7589):358–61. doi:10.1136/bmj.39092.679722.BE

[9] Kim YH, Kim J, Kang MG, et al. Optic nerve changes in chronic sinusitis patients: Correlation with disease severity and relevant sinus location. PLos One. 2018.

Neem Mayur
Neem Mayur
Mayur Neem, a certified dietician having more than 5 years of experience in the field of diet practice. He is working as a diet expert and offering services to body builders, sports persons, celebrities, etc. He is lover of natural remedies and loves to spend most of his free time in his organic farm and offers expert advice on organic farming to local farmers. He is available through [email protected]


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