Chronic Sinusitis and Fibromyalgia: Is There a Link?

Nobody really knows for sure what causes fibromyalgia. Researchers are still trying to learn more about the condition every day. Though exact causes of fibro aren’t clear, we do know that certain health conditions and fibro often seem to go hand in hand. One of the most common conditions that seems to occur more frequently in fibromyalgia patients is chronic sinusitis. If life isn’t already uncomfortable enough with fibromyalgia, sinus pain and pressure can make you feel even more miserable. But they might not be as unrelated as they seem. Read on to see more about the connection between fibromyalgia and sinusitis.

What is Chronic Sinusitis?

Acute sinusitis is more than just allergies or a stuffy nose. It is actually an inflammation of your sinuses and nasal passages. Some of the most common symptoms of sinusitis include sinus pressure and pain, headaches (particularly by the eyes or the bridge of the nose), reduced sense of smell or taste, and nasal congestion or drainage. Other symptoms of sinusitis may include ear pain, sore throat, nausea, bad breath, or irritability.

Sinusitis is most often a short-term illness that comes after a cold. It usually goes away within a few weeks. But in some people, sinusitis can become a more chronic condition. Chronic sinusitis lasts longer, generally at least 12 weeks. Patients with chronic sinusitis will likely have tried several treatments, including antibiotics and prescription decongestants, without lasting relief.

According to the Mayo Clinic, chronic sinusitis has similar symptoms to acute sinusitis. But chronic sinusitis is also more likely to cause extreme fatigue. Other sinusitis symptoms are also more likely to be severe.

Risk Factors for Sinusitis

You may develop chronic sinusitis after having several episodes of acute sinusitis, each lasting four weeks or less. Some people are at greater risk of developing chronic sinusitis, especially those who have the following conditions:

  • Deviated (crooked) nasal septum
  • Regular exposure to irritants like cigarette smoke
  • Nasal polyps that block the sinuses
  • Asthma
  • Allergies such as hay fever
  • Respiratory tract infections
  • Complications of other illnesses, such as reflux/GERD, cystic fibrosis, or autoimmune diseases

What Does Sinusitis Have to Do with Fibromyalgia?

Because chronic sinusitis involves a state of inflammation, it’s possible for that inflammation to continue. Inflammatory processes tend to become chronic in general and may be systemic, affecting many parts of the body. The after-effects of sinusitis can be serious, including meningitis, skin infections (cellulitis), or bone infections (osteomyelitis). Although aren’t certain about what causes fibromyalgia, one common theory is that it occurs after physical trauma or infection.

Fibromyalgia is also possibly linked to a weakened immune system. A weakened immune system may also lower the threshold for illnesses and secondary infections, including chronic sinusitis. This may be a case where you can’t tell which illness came first because they are both linked.

Myofascial Pain Syndrome and Sinuses

Myofascial pain refers to chronic pain that involves the body’s trigger points. The term fascial refers to the muscles and the connective tissue that covers and supports them. Myofascial pain syndrome has several symptoms, including tenderness, limited range of motion, muscle weakness and stiffness, and sleep disturbances. It is very similar to the symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Sinus problems are linked to chronic pain, though experts aren’t sure why. Inflammation seems to be at the root of both. A 2003 study found that people with chronic sinusitis also frequently have widespread physical pain and are ten times more likely to have non-allergy-related inflammation. This constant state of inflammation can lead to infected nasal passages as well as bodily pain. Dry mucous membranes can create the right environment for bacterial and yeast infections to develop.

How Can You Get Relief from Chronic Sinusitis?

Addressing the sinus problems may also provide relief from your fibro symptoms. A 2008 review of previous studies found that sinus surgery actually relieved chronic fatigue as well. Seek help from an ENT (ear, nose and throat) doctor if you think sinus problems are affecting you. Even if sinus surgery is not an option for you at this time, you may find that fixing your sinus issues may help your bodily pain and fatigue.

If you have had past problems with recurrent sinus infections, try the following methods to get relief:

  • Get serious about allergy-proofing your home. Replace carpets with wood, laminate, or tile floors. Run a HEPA filter to remove allergens from the air or frequently replace the air filters in your home.
  • Use nasal irrigation, such as a Neti Pot. This will flush allergens out of your nasal passages and reduce the risk of infection.
  • Add moisture to the air with a humidifier.
  • Avoid nasal irritants like cigarette smoke and home fragrance products, such as plug-in scented air fresheners.

Use nasal sprays as appropriate. Check with your doctor before regularly using steroid-based nasal sprays, however: long

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