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Bad News for Sinus Sufferers

Chronic rhinosinusitis is a misery-generating condition – literally.

According to a large study just published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, having chronic rhinosinusitis significantly increases your risk of depression and anxiety. And if you also have nasal polyps the risk is higher still.

The Korean study was admittedly observational but it did include almost 50,000 individuals from the general population and followed them up for 11 years.

Researchers found, over the duration of the study, those people with chronic rhinosinusitis were 54% more likely to develop depression and 57% more likely to develop anxiety than those people who did not suffer this condition. And if nasal polyps accompanied the rhinosinusitis the increase in likelihood for both mental illnesses jumped to the early 60s (61% and 63% respectively).

So what are the implications of this study?

Well – they are fairly straightforward really.

“Physicians should be aware of the potential comorbidities observed in patients with [chronic rhinosinusitis] and provide therapy to reduce the risk of depression and anxiety in these patients,” the study authors helpfully concluded.

What we don’t know of course, being simply an observational study without any intervention to test, is whether effectively treating the rhinosinusitis helps the depression or anxiety, and importantly, whether surgically removing the polyps can make a difference to this psychological side-effect. The researchers actually even distance themselves from the conclusion that chronic rhinosinusitis causes depression and anxiety, citing the chicken and egg phenomena.

“Whether depression and anxiety amplify the symptoms of [chronic rhinosinusitis] or whether these conditions are the consequence of [chronic rhinosinusitis]is unknown,” they said.

But they do say their findings support previous research that has suggested an association between the conditions. They also say their study allowed analysis of the specific phenotype responsible for the chronic rhinosinusitis – whether it be predominantly T1 or T2 response derived. What they found was the association held true regardless of the phenotype – suggesting this was more to do with personality and symptoms than physiology.

All in all, what the study authors suggest is that given how common chronic rhinosinusitis is in the population, it is worthwhile keeping a high indexation of suspicion for the development of depression and anxiety not only for the patients’ current quality of life but also because these conditions can affect health outcomes down the line.

“[T]hese psychiatric comorbidities may influence not only the diagnosis of [chronic rhinosinusitis] but also its therapeutic and surgical outcomes,” the study authors said.



Kim JY, Ko I, Kim MS, Yu MS, Cho BJ, Kim DK. Association of Chronic Rhinosinusitis With Depression and Anxiety in a Nationwide Insurance Population. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2019 Feb 7.  DOI: 10.1001/jamaoto.2018.4103 [Epub ahead of print].