Allergic Sinus Disease in the Southwest

May 9, 2016

Sinusitis, or inflammation of the mucus membrane that lines the inside of the paranasal sinus cavities, can occur as an acute infection (acute sinusitis) or chronically. Chronic sinusitis is defined as sinusitis lasting over 12 weeks. Chronic sinusitis is less likely to be due to simple infection, and is felt to represent several types of chronic inflammatory conditions. Data from the National Health Interview Survey of 1996 found chronic sinusitis to be the second most common chronic health condition, at 12.5% of the population (31 million patients per year).

At least 200,000 sinus surgeries for chronic sinusitis per year are performed in the U.S. alone. Approximately 20% of patients with chronic sinusitis have nasal polyps. In addition, 5-10% of all patients with chronic sinusitis who have nasal polyps have been found to have “allergic fungal sinusitis.” This sinus disorder appears to be due to a chronic allergic inflammatory response to a microscopic fungus found in the patient’s sinus cavities. The fungus appears to be originally inhaled as fungal spores from the outside air.

Allergic fungal sinusitis is prevalent in the southwestern U.S., with Phoenix, AZ a “hot spot” for the disease. As many of our patients know, the Allergy Asthma Clinic has been involved in research on allergic fungal sinusitis for a number of years, publishing work on both diagnosis and treatment. Recent review articles are available at the front desk. For an excellent recent review article on all the various forms of chronic sinusitis see: Hamilos DL. Chronic rhinosinusitis: Epidemiology and medical management. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2011;128:693-707.

We have some copies in the office, so just ask.

Rachel Schubert