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Correcting Chronic Sinus Problems

Chronic sinus problems can last several weeks, months or be a lifelong problem. Difficulty breathing, congestion, and facial pain often accompany sinus infections. When the conditions do not respond to antibiotics or over-the-counter remedies, surgery may be a solution. Sinus surgery can be used to treat and get rid of chronic sinus problems.

What are sinus issues?

Sinus issues include anything that causes discomfort in the nasal area. Symptoms include pain, nasal discharge, headaches, throat irritation, coughing, and a hoarse voice. Many sinus problems are treatable with antibiotics. Over-the-counter medications such as saline sprays and nasal rinses can alleviate many symptoms. If medication stops working or complications arise, additional testing or even surgery may be needed. Chronic sinusitis is the most common reason for sinus surgery.

Acute vs chronic

The main difference between labeling a medical problem as acute vs chronic is largely determined by the length of the condition. Acute medical conditions often come on quick and have rapidly changing symptoms. Examples include strep throat, influenza, pneumonia or an asthma attack. Chronic medical conditions develop and worsen over time, with many initially presenting as acute conditions. Chronic conditions last for months at a time and can be challenging to treat.

What is sinusitis?

Sinusitis also called a sinus infection, is the swelling and inflammation of the nasal passages. Often triggered by allergies or the common cold, sinusitis symptoms include headache, congestion, fever, bad breath, and a runny nose. Acute sinusitis lasts between 2-4 weeks. Chronic sinusitis lasts 12 weeks or longer. Untreated sinusitis can lead to meningitis, bone infections, and even brain abscesses.

When is surgery required?

Surgery isn’t always required for sinusitis. However, a doctor may recommend surgery if the patient experiences one or more of the following:

  • The patient experiences chronic sinusitis and is not responding to medication.
  • The patient has large nasal polyps or other growths blocking the nasal or sinus passage.
  • The infection has spread to the bone.
  • The patient has trouble breathing.

Surgical options

There are 3 common types of sinus surgeries: endoscopic sinus surgery, image-guided surgery, and balloon sinus surgery.

  • Endoscopic surgery involves the use of an endoscope, a type of flexible camera, to diagnose and treat the source of the issue.
  • Image-guided surgery uses three-dimensional mapping to create a clear picture of the sinus passages. The mapping provides real-time views of the nasal passages and enables the surgeons to see the position of the instruments within the body.
  • Balloon sinus surgery is minimally invasive and can be performed as an outpatient procedure, often in an ENT’soffice. An endoscope is inserted into the patient’s nose, and a small balloon is inflated to help the nasal bones reform into a new shape.

All three surgeries have similar outcomes but which type of surgery is used is depending on the patient’s particular complaint and other medical conditions. A sinus specialists will be able to determine the best treatment plan and surgery.

See an ENT

Surgery can alleviate many of the symptoms associated with chronic sinus conditions. Untreated acute sinus conditions can easily develop into long-term problems. Surgery will improve airflow, promote drainage, and allow more medication to reach nasal passages. Patients with chronic sinus conditions should speak with an ENT regarding treatment options.