Catarrh is a non specific term which almost certainly is followed by the question ‘what exactly do you mean’ by most ENT specialists. It could mean a drip from the back of the nose (post nasal drip) in to the throat, a blocked stuffy nose, excessive sneezing, nasal discharge or throat clearing. A careful history and examination in most situations helps to arrive at the cause of the symptom. Examination usually involves an examination of the nasal cavity, the back of the nose and the opening in to the sinuses with a rigid telescope. In some people an allergy test is required. Treatment consists of nasal drops, sprays or sometimes both depending on the diagnosis. In a few people, surgery is required to get on top of the symptoms.
‘Sinus problems’ is another thing often complained about. This may mean recurrent attacks of sinusitis, intractable facial pains or a blocked nose all the time. Facial pains are not necessarily caused by sinusitis – in fact only acute sinusitis causes facial pains, chronic sinusitis does not. Facial pains may be caused by jaw problems, dental disease or is sometimes an atypical facial pain
Some people may have a blocked nose due to a deformed nose. This may or may not be visible from the outside. Nasal sprays may provide relief for the blocked nose. If nasal sprays do not help or you are not keen on using sprays on a long term basis surgery can be performed. This may be a septoplasty to reshapen the cartilage in the middle of the nose or a septorhinoplasty to reshape the whole nose to help it breathe better. These are not cosmetic operations as they designed to help the function of the nose i.e. breathing.
A scan is in most instances not required to diagnose sinus disease. Sinus scans are usually requested when surgery is being planned.