Sinusitis – Special Consideration for Elderly


With aging, the physiology and function of the nose changes; this must be considered when sinusitis affects their health. The nose lengthens and the nasal tip begins to droop due to weakening of the supporting cartilage. This in turn causes a restriction of nasal airflow, particularly at the nasal valve region (where the upper and lower lateral cartilages meet) -- narrowing in this area results in frequent complaints of nasal obstruction.


Geriatric complaints are: constant need to clear the throat, a sense of nasal obstruction, nasal crusting, vague facial pressure, decreased sense of smell and taste.


For the most part, sinusitis symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment are the same for the elderly as other adult age groups. However, there are special considerations for older Americans.


Patients with chronic sinusitis will have a long history of thick drainage that is often foul smelling and tasting and is associated with nasal obstruction, headaches and facial pressure. In contrast, the geriatric rhinitis patient usually has a dry, irritated nose. The diagnosis of chronic sinusitis can be confirmed with a computed tomography scan (CT scan) of the sinuses.


Treatment for this age group needs to be more individualized – these patients have slower metabolism and increasing potential for side effects. The majority of the nation’s elderly have chronic diseases and take multiple drugs including over-the-counter medications; placing them at a higher risk for drug interactions. In recognition of this, special consideration for the elderly must be taken in account.


Esther Smith, author

Smith has cared for several Alzheimer patients, and sinus problems are common among these patients. To be save, a doctor is always contacted before any additional treatments are given. More on treatments for the elderly here: