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Chronic sinusitis symptoms: balance & vision problems

Updated July 19, 2017

Left untreated, chronic sinusitis can lead to serious complications. Infection can spread from the sinuses to the inner ear and lead to labyrinthitis or Meniere's disease, causing balance problems. In rare cases, infection may spread to surrounding areas of the eye and cause damage to vision or even blindness.

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Sinusitis is usually caused by an infection or allergies. When swelling of the sinuses persists or returns repeatedly, doctors call the condition chronic. Sinusitis can result from a blockage of the nasal passages caused by allergies, nasal polyps, tumours or a deviated septum. A tooth abscess from a dental infection can also cause chronic sinusitis. A fungal infection can even be the culprit.


Sinusitis is the inflammation of any sinus membrane---those that form the air-filled spaces behind the forehead, eyes and cheeks. Common symptoms include thick, yellow or green mucous and a stuffy nose. Less commonly, there may be a sore throat, foul breath, tiredness and a weakened sense of smell. You may also have a fever, postnasal drip, ear pressure or a toothache. Headache is the most common symptom of sinusitis, however. Treatment is essential as both vision and balance problems can result from untreated chronic sinusitis.

Balance Problems

Two conditions which cause dizziness may result from untreated sinusitis. Should the sinusitis lead to an ear infection, you may develop either labyrinthitis or Meniere's disease. Labyrinthitis results when parts of the inner ear become swollen and irritated. According to MedlinePlus of the National Institutes of Health, persons with labyrinthitis experience dizziness and loss of balance, especially upon changing positions. Meniere's disease, which also involves the inner ear, affects both hearing and balance and in some cases causes a ringing in the ears.

Vision Problems

Left untreated, chronic sinusitis can also lead to another serious complication, which affects vision. You may develop an abscess in your sinus. In rare cases, a brain abscess may form. Infection may spread to surrounding areas of the eye and cause damage to vision or even blindness, according to MedlinePlus.


Doctors treat chronic sinusitis in a variety of ways. For fungal sinusitis, doctors use surgery and anti-fungal medications, plus anti-inflammation drugs. For bacterial sinusitis, extended regimens of oral or injected antibiotics may be called for, or steroidal nasal spray to reduce inflammation. Treatment may also include pain relievers, decongestants or other medications that ease symptoms. Sometimes, you must have surgery to drain and clean your nose, repair a deviated septum or remove an obstruction. Because of the possibility of serious complications, you should see a doctor if you have chronic sinusitis.

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About the Author

Diane Makar Murphy

Diane Makar Murphy is a writer with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from San Jose State University and a Master of Arts in education from Chapman University. Her more than 30 years of writing include articles in the "Atlanta Journal and Constitution," "Youngstown Vindicator" and on various websites. Two of her curriculum guide books are currently listed with the Center for Learning.

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