Chronic sinusitis

Written by Dr Claudia Pastides, 13th March 2019

Chronic sinusitis is estimated to affect 1 in 10 people in the UK1. Chronic sinusitis is sinusitis that lasts longer than 12 weeks. Sinusitis is Inflammation of the lining of the paranasal sinuses (a cluster of pockets in the skull that lie around the nose). Usually there is pain or pressure in the face and a stuffy nose, often with yellow or green discharge.

Chronic sinusitis sometimes requires additional evaluation by a specialised ENT doctor to see if there are any changes or problems with your sinuses. For information on sinusitis of shorter duration than 12 weeks, have a look at acute sinusitis.


The cause of chronic sinusitis is thought to be down to inflammation due to a combination of factors, such as asthma, genetic factors and allergic rhinitis.

Risk factors

  • Smoking
  • Asthma or allergies
  • Having a weakened immune system
  • Certain genetic disorders, such as cystic fibrosis

Typical Symptoms

  • Congestion for more than 12 weeks
  • Thick white or yellow mucus coming from the nose
  • Pain or pressure in the face that is worse when bending forward
  • Reduced sense of smell (in adults)
  • Cough (more common in children)
  • Feeling tired easily

Common Treatment

Treatment includes rest and self-care measures. Ask your local pharmacist for their recommendation, which would usually include:

  • Common painkillers
  • Irrigation of the nose (you can buy nasal irrigation devices from a pharmacy or do it yourself)

It is advisable to speak to a GP. Under some circumstances the GP would prescribe:

  • Antibiotics
  • Nasal steroid spray

Your GP might also refer you to an ENT specialist.

When to speak to a doctor

Chronic sinusitis can often be initially managed via a digital consultation. If the GP decides you need a face to face appointment, they will discuss what steps you can take next.

It is important to speak to a doctor urgently if you have:

  • A high fever that isn’t improving with over the counter medicine
  • Eye pain, especially with eye movements
  • Eyelid swelling and redness
  • Double vision
  • Severe headache
  • Confusion or decreased consciousness
  • Neck stiffness


Chronic sinusitis can be managed and prevented by:

  • Stopping smoking
  • Treating conditions that increase the risk of chronic sinusitis, such as asthma

More information

NHS information on sinusitis sinus infection


1. ENT UK and Royal College of Surgeons (2016) Commissioning guide: Chronic Rhinosinusitis. ENT UK and Royal College of Surgeons.