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Chronic Stuffy Nose: Fungus May Be the Culprit

Posted Aug 26 2008 4:03pm

Chronic sinus infections associated with nasal polyps are incurable because doctors didn't have the foggiest idea what causes them. Nasal polyps are small finger-like, fluid-filled blisters, often associated with asthma and serious reactions to aspirin. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic found fungi in 96 percent of people with chronic sinusitis.



Allergy shots and antihistamines have never been shown to control the combination of chronic stuffy noses, nasal polyps, and sinus infections that do not vary throughout the season. Doctors treat this condition with cortisones that suppress the nasal discharge, headaches, and stuffy nose a little bit, but never cure the patient and may even set the patient up for a worsening of symptoms as the years pass.



The most common fungi are alternaria, penicillium, cladosporium, aspergillus, candida and fusarium. A sinus cat scan will tell whether a person has a sinus infection. If the cat scan shows fluid levels indicating a sinus infection, the doctor should order a fungus culture of the nose. If the culture is positive for fungi, the doctor should consider treatment with antifungal medication, even though there are no good studies to show the fungal medicines cure sinusitis, because the present treatment of cortisones works only in the short run, and shortens life by causing osteoporosis, high blood pressure and obesity. If the fungus infection is positive, the person should be treated with the appropriate anti-fungal medication such as Sporanox, Lamisil or Diflucan.



If your nose is stuffy during the pollen seasons in the spring and fall, check with an allergist. Allergy injections can help control your symptoms. If your stuffy nose started after puberty, you don't have allergies and your nose is stuffy 12 months a year, allergy injections usually are ineffective. Antihistamines and decongestant pills help to control your symptoms a little. Cortisone-type pills are highly effective but have side effects, such as obesity and osteoporosis. Cortisone-type nasal sprays are safer than the pills. Doctors are continuously searching for better ways to treat people with chronically stuffy and running noses.



Your nose is supposed to clean, heat and moisturize the air that you breathe. The inside of your nose is covered with a sticky mucous that traps dirt, pollen, mold and other pollutants and prevents them from reaching your lungs. Inside of each nostril are large ridges called turbinates that have large blood vessels in them. When the inner lining of one side of your nose fills up with pollutants, the blood vessels inside the turbinates enlarge and swell the turbinates so they stop air from entering that side of your nose and force you to breathe through the other side of your nose. Then small hairs called cilia in the lining of your nose sweep the mucous and filth toward your mouth where you swallow them and they pass from your body.



It is normal for you to breathe through one side of your nose and then the other. It is abnormal for the turbinates on both sides to swell at the same time and cause a stuffy nose. If your nose is stuffy in the spring and fall, you probably have an allergy and need allergy tests. If you have thick yellow or green mucous, you probably have an infection and need a culture and antibiotics. If you are exposed to irritants such as hair spray or smoke, that is probably the cause, and if your stuffiness is worse in the winter, the cause is probably breathing dry, cold air. If no cause is found, your doctor usually diagnoses vasomotor rhinitis which means that he doesn't have the foggiest idea what's causing your stuffiness and the only relatively safe and effective treatment offered today is daily use of a cortisone nasal spray such as Vancenase, Beconase or Rhinocort. More on stuffy nose, nasal polyps and fungus infections, plus journal references

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