Chronic Sinus Inflammation and How It May Affect You

In chronic sinus inflammation, the sinuses can be inflamed and swollen, resulting in sinus/facial discomfort, teeth pain and nasal and sinus congestion. Other symptoms that people may experience include headaches, a decreased sense of smell or taste, sore throat and a cough. While these symptoms are commonly associated with sinus inflammation, a recent study has shown that this inflammation may also cause difficulty focusing, depression and even changes in brain activity.

Chronic Sinus Inflammation

According to lead author, Dr. Aria Jafari, a surgeon and Assistant professor of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Washington School of Medicine, “This is the first study that links chronic sinus inflammation with a neurobiological change”. She added that “previous studies have shown that those who have sinusitis often decide to seek medical care not because they have a runny nose and sinus pressure, but because the disease is affecting how they interact with the world. They can’t be productive, thinking is difficult, sleep is lousy. It broadly impacts their quality of life”. Researchers involved with this study utilized a study cohort from the Human Connectome Project (an open-access, brain-focused dataset of 1206 healthy adults between the ages of 22-35) and data collected included radiographic imaging studies, as well as cognitive/behavioral measurements.

For those patients identified with moderate to severe sinus inflammation, the following changes were noted in their MRI’s:

“Decreased functional connectivity in the fronto-parietal network, a regional hub for executive function, maintaining attention and problem-solving”.

“Increased functional connectivity to 2 nodes in the default-mode network, which influences self-reference and is active during wakeful rest and mind-wandering”. “Decreased functional connectivity in the salience network, which is involved in detecting and integrating external stimuli, communication and social behavior”.

It is important to point out that the participants with moderate to severe sinus inflammation (ages 22-35) did not show “clinically significant signs of cognitive impairment”, but co-author, Dr. Kristina Simonyan at Harvard Medical School, noted that the changes in their brain scans “might be associated with subtle changes in how brain regions controlling these functions communicate with one another”.

Treatment and Management of Chronic Sinus Inflammation

There are several reasons why sinus inflammation occurs but poorly controlled allergies is often a culprit. People with active viral or dental issues and those with asthma, immune disorders, structural abnormalities of the nasal and sinus cavities, nasal polyps and aspirin sensitivities tend to have a higher rate of chronic sinusitis.

Don’t smoke, because smoking changes the lining of the nasal passages (which can impair how cilia work) and increases the risk of infection. When all conventional options have been depleted, surgical intervention may be medically necessary. Although surgery will address debridement, removal of nasal polys or correction of structural abnormalities, it will not address the allergic component, and left untreated, it is possible for sinus disease to return if the underlying allergy is not addressed.

If you think that your sinus symptoms are interfering with your life, take the first steps to see if allergy is a contributing factor and if it is, take all necessary actions to keep your allergies under optimum control.

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