Sniff, slice or swallow? All guesses are good when it comes to chronic sinusitis

We’ve all had colds that seem never-ending, and wondered if maybe, just maybe, we would one day be able to breathe without sounding like a foghorn.

Well for some people, that kind of nasal hell is just another day in the life.

Sinusitis causes swelling in the sinuses and nose, preventing the accumulated mucus from being drained out. The result is pain and pressure around the eyes, sore teeth, and constant headaches. People who suffer from chronic sinusitis go through that for days or even months at a time.

Physicians have recently come around to the idea that chronic sinusitis is an inflammation-related condition, rather than an infection to be treated with antibiotics. Treatment ideology has also shifted. Rather than relying on pills and other external treatments, doctors increasingly believe in getting medicine directly inside the sinuses, up close and personal.

Inofei Chen, health reporter at The New York Times, spoke to two doctors leading the way in exploring the role of biofilms in chronic sinusitis. In her article “The Best Treatment for Sinus Complaints,” published in The New York Times in May 2011 as part of The Times Health Guide to Sinusitis, Drs. Noam A. Cohen and Dr. James N. Palmer explained the different treatment options that chronic sinusitis sufferers have to manage their symptoms. Below is a summary of their best recommendations.

The main idea behind any treatment? Get the fluid out.

One of the ways to do this is by nasal irrigation with a saline solution to clear the pipes, so to speak. Sinuses are like a drain for the nose.  When the drain in your shower gets clogged, you get the Drano, aka saline solution.

According to Dr. Palmer, most people who suffer from chronic sinusitis would see their symptoms disappear.

If that doesn’t work, Cohen says, steroids are your next best bet. Remember, the goal is to reduce the inflammation in the sinuses so that the fluid trapped inside can drain out. Antibiotics can be effective in some cases, especially if a doctor manages to get a sample of the bacteria that have set up house inside your nose.

But treating chronic sinusitis is not always as simple as deflating sinuses with prick of a needle.

If all else fails, garden-variety chronic sinusitis-sufferers can think about surgery, which Cohen says has an 80-90 percent success rate for those fulfilling the criteria.

As mentioned in a previous post, doctors are exploring the possibility of chronic sinusitis being linked to bacterial communities known as biofilms. Surgery is again a good option here. Doctors can cut away the affected areas, and clear the sinuses right out.

But all these treatment options qualified with an emphatic “if that doesn’t work…” just seem to reinforce the underlying issue that makes chronic sinusitis such a devious foe: there simply isn’t a bonafide cure, only many potential ways to make the symptoms a little more bearable.

Ultimately, just like when you wish for George Clooney to magically sweep you off your feet, it’s all about managing expectations.




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