Chronic Sinusitis - A Widespread Problem
What Are Sinuses?
The sinuses are the openings in the bones around your nose. Everyone has four pairs of sinuses that are connected to the nasal cavity by small openings. The sinuses cluster around the carotid arteries, as well as the optic and olfactory nerves. Amazingly, they are separated from the brain by a fragile bone that is thin enough to see through.
When they are working properly, air flows in and out of the sinuses and fluid and mucous drains into the nose. The same types of membranes that line the inside of the nose line the sinuses and are covered with tiny hairs, called cilia. These important hairs trap pollen, dust, viruses and bacteria, flushing them out through the back of the throat to the stomach. Inflammation of one or more of the sinus cavities inhibits this process so the mucous and membranes become infected, and sinusitis results.
Why do we all have these infection-prone cavities just inches from our brain? Experts dispute the actual purpose of the sinuses. Two theories are that sinuses exist to equalize barometric pressure or to regulate air temperature going into the lungs. What is not up for debate is the importance of keeping our sinuses healthy and disease-free.
Is Sinusitis A Big Problem? I was consulting a friend the other day about why she may be having persistent allergic symptoms, and I asked if she had ever been diagnosed with chronic sinusitis. Her husband reacted with a snicker at such an odd, funny-sounding ailment. In fact, sinusitis is a growing problem that you may have already experienced first-hand. Here's a peek at some sobering numbers*:
- Sinusitis develops in approximately 31 million Americans each year.
- Chronic sinusitis affects nearly 35 million people in the United States.
- People suffering from sinusitis miss an average of four days of work each year.
- There are more than 18 million office visits to primary care physicians resulting in a diagnosis of sinusitis annually.
- In 1996, overall health care expenditures attributable to sinusitis in the United States were estimated to be over $5.8 billion.
*Source: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (www.aaaai.org)
What Is Chronic Sinusitis? Chronic sinusitis is defined as sinus inflammation that persists for two months or longer. Sporadic sinusitis that lasts only a few weeks is known as acute sinusitis, and often follows a respiratory infection such as a cold. Although acute sinusitis symptoms are often more severe, the more constant symptoms of chronic sinusitis put sufferers at higher risk of sinus tissue damage.
According to Dr. Ralph Metson, the author of Harvard Medical School Guide to Healing Your Sinuses, "The classic symptoms of sinusitis are three. First is facial pain or headache, the second is obstruction or difficulty breathing through the nose, and the third is nasal drainage, referred to as postnasal drip."
These symptoms are a result of infection in the sinus cavities. But what kind of recurring infection causes chronic sinusitis? For years the assumption has been that bacterial infections caused chronic sinusitis symptoms; however, recent research by the Mayo Clinic and others has implicated fungi (a.k.a., mold), in the sinuses as the root cause of chronic sinusitis.
Sound a little odd? Read this description of the sinus infection process from Donald Dennis, MD. Dr. Dennis is an ear, nose and throat specialist and champion of research on fungi and sinusitis:
"In order to achieve and maintain wellness, it is necessary for you to understand why you have sinusitis. You breathe airborne mold particles that are in the air. Then you have an allergic reaction to these mold fragments. This reaction causes small pits to form in the membranes that line the sinuses. These pits trap mucous so that it cannot drain. The stagnant mucous gets infected, which causes nasal polyps [benign growths within the nasal passages] and thickening of the lining which obstructs the outflow of mucous. The polyps then cause more infection and the infection causes more polyps. Thus, there is a vicious cycle which perpetuates itself. If you get rid of the mold in the nose and in the air you breathe and establish drainage in blocked sinuses you can get long term relief."
Is Sinus Surgery A Necessary Step? The traditional approach to treating chronic sinusitis has been to treat the patient with antibiotics to eliminate the presumed bacterial infection. If antibiotics proved ineffective, surgery would be recommended. This method has come under question as doctors seek to treat the root causes of infection, which in many cases is mold.
For those who have tried antibiotics and mold elimination without relief, surgery may be the next step. Sinus surgeries are more and more common these days. My friend Abby had endoscopic sinus surgery a few years ago and was amazed at the wonderful, immediate relief she felt. But this operation is not the end-all for every sinusitis sufferer and should be approached with caution. Sinus surgery is quite invasive (recall how close to your brain the sinuses are located!), and the operation leaves about a third of patients with a type of scarring known as "adhesions", which can block sinus passages and require further surgery.
Consult with your allergist or ear, nose and throat specialist and ask them about different options for relief. If surgery is recommended to clean and drain your sinuses, be sure to ask about post-operative therapy like saline irrigation, as well as other recommendations for keeping your sinuses infection-free. (If you would like your doctor to see more information about Dr. Dennis' research, direct them to www.fungalsinusitis.com/md).
Are There Natural, Non-Drug Remedies For Chronic Sinusitis? Many of our customers are interested in non-drug alternatives for alleviating allergy, asthma and sinus problems. Here are some "at-home" strategies that we - and physicians - recommend.
Control Indoor Allergens - Allergies can irritate or trigger sinusitis symptoms. In such cases, doctors may prescribe topical steroids like nasal sprays which can offer temporary relief. However, if you suffer from chronic sinusitis and have allergic sensitivities, you may find longer-term wellness by reducing the allergens in your environment. I have a friend who has suffered from chronic sinusitis symptoms for years. By simply covering his mattress and pillow with allergen-proof encasings and consistently running an air cleaner in his room, he has been able to greatly reduce his sinusitis symptoms. Research shows that fall and winter can be especially problematic for indoor allergens. Be sure to use high-efficiency furnace filters to help take particulates out of the air and vacuum your home regularly with a HEPA vacuum so that the particles you vacuum up won't be exhausted right back out. And don't forget this key allergen control measure .
Avoid Mold - The most effective treatment for chronic sinusitis is to eliminate the infection, which to this point has most often meant taking a series of antibiotics. If you are like me and try to avoid antibiotics whenever possible (I am most stringent about penicillin since I'm highly allergic!), you should be encouraged by the Mayo Clinic study that found 93% of all chronic sinusitis to be caused by mold, not bacterial infection. So, eliminating mold and fungi from your nose and from your environment could significantly reduce your risk for chronic sinusitis. If you already have chronic sinusitis, avoiding mold could bring you relief, without surgery or antibiotics. You can read a complete protocol from Dr. Dennis in our Chronic Sinusitis Section or by reading Dr. Dennis' published study. Here are some of the recommended tools for avoiding mold and controlling fungal sinusitis:
- Mold Test Kit - Find out if you have a mold problem with lab-certified results.
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- CitriSafe Air Treatment Solution - This all-natural air sanitizer works in bathrooms or small rooms to dramatically reduce airborne mold.
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- Agrumax Antifungal Solution - Get to the root of your sinusitis symptoms with this all-natural anti-fungal. It's an ideal additive to your irrigation solution.
- Soleus Dehumidifier - Perfect for a garage, basement or workroom. Neither mold nor dust mites can survive in low-humidity environments.
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Irrigate! - "The best home remedy to treat sinusitis is salt-water irrigations," says Dr. Metson of Harvard Medical School. Sinus irrigation (also known as nasal irrigation) is also an important part of Dr. Dennis' sinus protocol. Physicians have long-recommended this practice for post-operative care, but more and more doctors are touting the myriad of other benefits gained from irrigation.
"Nasal irrigation is effective in improving symptoms and the health status of patients with sinonasal disease." LARYNGOSCOPE 2000;110:1189-1193 Lance T. Tomooka, MSIV; Claire Murphy, PhD; Terence M. Davidson, MD
"Daily nasal irrigation resulted in improvement in the symptoms of chronic sinusitis in over 70% of subjects. Medication usage was decreased in approximately one third of patientsú" OTOLARYNGOLOGY HEAD NECK SURGERY 2001 Jul; 125(1):44-8;
"Nasal cleanliness is central to good health and is effective for anyone that wishes to prevent nasal woes or wishes to reduce their use of medications." - Solomon MD, Hana. "Nasal Washing Works During The Allergy Season." 2005 May One of the most recommended nasal irrigation methods is positive-pressure, pulsatile irrigation. In irrigation systems that use this method, such as the new SinuPulse Elite, the pulsating flow of water matches the natural movement of the nasal cilia, providing the most effective cleaning. Even if you don't have chronic sinusitis, regular irrigation is a good habit to develop to prevent colds, allergy symptoms and sinusitis. Here are some recommended irrigation tools that anyone can benefit from:
- The SinuPulse Elite - developed in Switzerland to be the most advanced pulsatile irrigation system in the world. Includes *Bonus* SinuAir soft squeeze nasal wash bottle.
- SinuAir - formulated for use as a hypertonic or isotonic saline solution and works well in conjunction with SinuPulse Elite.
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- SaltAire - pre-mixed hypertonic saline wash that's recommended by doctors and perfect for soothing sinuses.
- Alkalol - refreshing blend of natural extracts and oils soothes the nasal passages and acts as a mucous solvent.
- Nasopure - travel-ready bottle and saline packets for your holiday vacation. Plus, its safe for kids!
| There is a lot to know and learn about chronic sinusitis. We have a wealth of information in our Learning Library, and our phone experts have plenty of experience guiding people through their options for allergy, asthma and sinus relief, so be in touch! |
Happy holidays from our family to yours.
The information in this newsletter is for educational purposes only. Always consult with your doctor first about your specific condition, treatment options and other health concerns you may have.
Remember that our customer service representatives have plenty of experience guiding people through the options for allergy, asthma and sinus relief, so feel free to contact us by calling one of our phone experts at 1-800-522-1448 Monday through Friday between the hours of 9:00 am and 5:30 pm Eastern Time. You can also e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.