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New hope for those with chronic sinusitis

January 26, 2009 3:29:54 PM PST
It's like having a bad cold that won't go away. Sixteen million Americans suffer from chronic sinusitis, and if they don't get treated quickly, it can turn into a dangerous infection. Now, a new blood test is making it easier for people to get on a fast track to feeling better.

"I've got a gift, and I love to be able to use that gift," artist Cindy Epps said.

Epps believes the beauty of her paintings is in the details. This past year, chronic sinusitis turned her world into a blur.

"My head hurt. My face hurt," she said. "It's hard to be able to focus on something beautiful and creating and doing something like that when you feel miserable like that."

Diagnosing a sinus inflammation, which causes severe pressure and pain, is difficult because it can have so many causes. A new blood test is clearing up the confusion.

"Using a drop of blood, we are able to tell who are the individuals that have chronic sinus problems," said Dr. Stilianos Kountakis, an otoloaryngologist at the Medical College of Georgia.

The test measures specific proteins in the blood linked to chronic sinusitis. In a study of more than 100 people, the blood test was able to identify those who had the condition even if they had no symptoms.

"It's a more objective test," Dr. Kountakis said. "Also, we can determine the type of sinusitis that the patient has."

The test allows doctors to get patients on the right medications sooner and tailor the treatment to a person's blood profile.

"It's like a fingerprint for that individual patient, and that individual disease," Dr. Kountakis said.

After months of suffering, Cindy found the right treatment routine, allowing her creativity to shine through.

"I feel 100 percent better, and I feel like I can do the things that I love to do," she said.

The National Institutes of Health says in rare cases, untreated sinus infections can lead to a brain infection. There's no cure for chronic sinusitis, just careful monitoring and management with medication.

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King


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