"You get used to being miserable," Tim Adams says with a shrug. "It's a gradual thing- after days of being uncomfortable, you adapt. It becomes a normal routine to carry wads of Kleenex wherever you go."
For most of his 44 years, the Silverado resident - along with millions of Americans - suffered from sinusitis. The persistent stuffiness, headaches, frequent colds and respiratory infections and as Adams puts it, "the constant hassle with your nose" lead sufferers to spend upwards of $200 million each year on drugs - many of them ineffective - to treat sinusitis. The trouble with over-the-counter drugs (and many prescriptions, as well) is that they don't treat the whole problem. "Everybody gets sinusitis," says Robert del Junco, M.D., an ear, nose and throat specialist and medical director of St. Joseph Hospital's Nasal and Sinus Center.
Sinusitis is Tricky
It's getting rid of it that's tricky. Sinusitis may have any number of causes and many possible complications, Dr. del Junco explains. It may be an occasional complication of a cold or a chronic condition associated with allergy of structural defect in the nose. Often, sinusitis results from the cumulative effects of environment (air pollution, industrial fumes), colds, flu and allergies. Over the years, such irritants (as well as the nasal sprays and decongestants used to treat them) lead to chronic inflammation and blockage of the sinus openings. In Adams' case, they also led to development of polyps in the nose, which caused further obstruction. He scarcely remembered what it was like to breathe easily, naturally.
Treating the Problem
"I had bad allergies as a kid," Adams remembers. "I couldn't go to school when certain bushes were blooming. Then I went to work in construction, which is a dusty environment. I also used to smoke heavily, but quit seven years ago. "I was always a little stuffed up, always getting sore throats and ear infections. I was sick a lot and constantly blowing my nose." When Tim came to see me, he had a long history of nasal, sinus and ear infections," Dr. del Junco recalls. "He had developed nasal polyps, which are very common following years of allergies and treatment with nasal sprays. "We began treating the problem with antibiotics and antihistamines. But the polyps were getting bigger and eventually the medications did not work as well. He wasn't getting better, so surgery became necessary." Adams had undergone surgeries before, on his knee and hand. He was a bit apprehensive. He was reassured to learn the technology is making nasal surgery safer, faster, less painful. At the Nasal and Sinus Center, Dr. del Junco used a nasal endoscope to provide a telescopic view of the nasal cavity. Polyps in the nose were clearly visible, as well as the blocked sinuses. With a unique computerized digital imaging system, he also was able to create a photographic record that remains a part of Adams' medical file.
With the computer images, Dr. del Junco says, " I can study the case, evaluate healing, see new growths, and formulate a treatment plan based on the sequence of photographic references." What's more, Adams himself was able to see the effects of surgery and evidence of healing in the computer record Not that he needed the technical confirmation - his nose told him that the surgery was a success. Now, he says, "I feel great. I hike three miles up the canyon every morning, and nothing bothers me. By breathing clearly, you smell things better, you feel much healthier."
Though Adams has outgrown his childhood allergies, he acknowledges there is no guarantee the polyps won't grow back. He is faithful to the nasal hygiene routine Dr. del Junco recommended - it includes medication to keep the condition of his sinuses stable - "roundup for the nose," he calls it And he is careful about diet and exercise. Now that he's breathing free, he says, "I want to do everything I can to feel good, to have a healthy body."