Could Chronic Sinusitis Affect Brain Health?

As if the headaches and stuffy nose aren’t bad enough, chronic sinus trouble often leaves patients foggy-headed and depressed. Now, new research suggests one possible reason why: Sinusitis may trigger changes in brain activity.

“Chronic sinusitis is incredibly common,” said study lead author Dr. Aria Jafari. Upwards of 11% of all Americans are affected, added Jafari, an assistant professor with the University of Washington Sinus and Skull Base Center, in Seattle.

The condition occurs when sinus tissue becomes swollen or inflamed because of an infection or perhaps an allergic reaction. Over time, the inflamed tissue thickens, much like calloused skin, the study authors explained.

Those who develop problems with concentration and thinking may find their quality of life undermined, Jafari said.

For this study, “we set out to determine if there are brain changes that can explain what we see in the clinic in our patients with sinusitis,” he said.

The study team pored over brain scans and mental health assessments of more than 1,200 adults (aged 22 to 35). All had participated in the Human Connectome Project between 2019 and 2020.