Pain and other symptoms of chronic sinus problems might cause sufferers to miss work or school but depression is their biggest source of lost productivity, a small study suggests.
Chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS), or long-lasting sinus swelling, is often caused by infection, growths in the sinuses or nose injury and can seriously affect people’s quality of life, the study team writes in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
In addition to facial pain and difficulty breathing through the nose, CRS can cause emotional symptoms like depression, the researchers add, and treatment in the future may need to focus more on these issues.
“We found that it was more severe depression symptoms that were associated with missing work or school due to CRS,” said senior author Dr. Ahmad Sedaghat, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
“These findings were extremely surprising because none of the symptoms typically associated with sinusitis were associated with patients missing work or school,” Sedaghat told Reuters Health by email.
To determine which symptoms are linked with missed work or school days, the study team collected data on 107 adults living with chronic sinus problems.
The participants completed questionnaires asking about sleep disturbance, nasal issues, ear or face pain and emotional functioning. They also rated their symptom severity and completed specific screens for nasal congestion and depression.
The researchers asked participants how many days of work or school they had missed in the past three months because of CRS. On average, the answer was three days.
But people who reported more emotional symptoms were significantly more likely to have missed work days, compared to people without these symptoms.
Having more ear or face pain or more nasal symptoms was not linked to missing days of work or school compared to people without those symptoms.
Even patients missing out on sleep because of their sinus problems were not any more likely to have lost productivity, researchers found.
While it is difficult to determine whether CRS actually causes depression, the many symptoms of the disease may affect patients’ ability to cope with the daily activities of life, said Jess Mace, a senior research associate at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland.
“Patients should understand that receiving a diagnosis of CRS may increase the likelihood of lowering emotional status over time,” Mace, who was not involved in the study, said by email.
“Understanding that and working proactively with your doctor to identify symptoms of depression and pursuing early treatment, if necessary, may help many patients experience better treatment outcomes and a higher quality of life,” he said.
If someone you know has chronic sinus problems, it is important to be aware that depression symptoms may be impacting their life, Sedaghat said.
“Our findings now suggest that depression may also be a very specific driver of missed work or school due to CRS and seeking out treatment of depression will not only lead to a significant improvement in quality of life, but it may also improve productivity in the setting of this chronic condition,” Sedaghat said.