Is Sinusitis Genetic?

ENT Centers of Excellence - Sinusitis and Genetics

What is Sinusitis?

The sinuses are hollow spaces in the bones around the nose, connecting to it via s a series of narrow passages. When the channels are properly open, it allows air to pass in from the nose and mucous to flow freely from the sinuses into the nose.

Sinus function can be impaired any time someone experiences a cold, flu, or similar illness – what some people think of as “head colds.” This causes acute sinusitis, which is transient and clears up when the infection is over. During this time, you might experience some sinus pressure or difficulty breathing through the nose, but it will end as the infection is eliminated.

With chronic sinusitis, sinuses become inflamed for a long period even without irritation from bacteria or viruses. Sinusitis sufferers often find themselves dealing with severe sinus symptoms when they are not otherwise unhealthy. Because of the swelling in the sinus lining, mucous and pus can collect in the narrow spaces. This creates a variety of unpleasant symptoms.

Many people suffer sinusitis, but may not realize their problem can be treated.

What Are Some Symptoms of Chronic Sinusitis?

Chronic sinusitis can be started or worsened by an infection, but it persists beyond and between any sinus infection – lasting at least four weeks and potentially many years. The principal factor is inflammation, so a variety of symptoms are felt around the nose and head.

Some chronic sinusitis symptoms include:

  • Difficulty breathing through the nose due to “stuffiness” or congestion.
  • Sinus pressure, especially noticeable in a band around the top of the nose.
  • Increased mucous production, which can lead to persistent post-nasal drop.
  • Coughing or sneezing caused by irritation and the presence of mucous.
  • Increased potential for headaches.
  • Genetic Link with Sinusitis and Cystic Fibrosis

Research strongly suggests some sinusitis patients may be genetically predisposed to the condition. As early as 2000, researchers from Johns Hopkins Medical Center concluded a specific genetic abnormality contributes to chronic sinusitis.

What’s more, the same mutation is associated with cystic fibrosis, a disorder in which mucous blocks airways in the lungs and causes damage. The pancreas and other organs can be affected as well. Anyone with cystic fibrosis should watch closely for sinusitis symptoms.

How is Sinusitis Treated?

Acute sinusitis can be treated using over-the-counter medication, such as antihistamine nasal spray, while prescriptions help the body combat the underlying bacterial or viral infection. Acute cases clear up shortly before or shortly after the infection ends.

Chronic sinusitis treatment can take a number of forms depending on the severity and type of symptoms presented. In general, treatments are focused on reducing or eliminating inflammation. Nasal irrigation using salt water is one of the most common home treatments.

A variety of other factors can contribute to sinusitis. Isolating and treating these can significantly help, and possibly even eliminate, the condition. Patients should consider getting screened for allergies, nasal polyps, and asthma. Many sufferers may have a combination of these.

In some cases, symptoms may not respond to conventional treatment. Sinusitis surgery can assist patients with the most severe cases. In the most common form of surgery, a tiny, specialized scope helps the doctor see into the nasal passages while widening their natural drainage paths. This enhances the ability of mucous to get out of the sinuses and air to get in.

If you’re struggling with sinusitis, ENT Centers of Excellence can help. Our experienced medical team will get the facts on your condition and develop a customized course of treatment so you can achieve relief from your symptoms. To find out more, contact us today.

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