Sinusitis unaffected by oral steroid therapies

By Sheryl Kay • Published: November 23rd, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

This year, more than 30 million Americans have sniffed their way through seasonal bouts of sinusitis, a condition caused by bacterial or viral infections in the sinuses.

Typically, when the condition is bacterial in nature, antibiotics produce the best overall long-term remedy. But there is no cure for the viral variety. A week spent suffering through facial and ear pressure and breathing trouble is debilitating for many. So it’s no surprise that the goal for developing a way to treat these infections includes not only a cure, but also a way to reduce symptoms.

Over the years, many patients have used nasal steroid sprays to lessen inflammation in the nose, but whether these sprays are the best choice has remained in question. For one, steroids can be very expensive, and often they produce very unwanted side effects.

Now, new research shows that in the end, steroids simply may not work for reducing the symptoms of sinusitis.

Just published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the study involved 200 adults diagnosed with sinusitis. Half the patients were given a week-long supply of steroid pills to be taken each day, while the other half received a placebo pill. None of the participants knew which group they were in, but all were asked to keep a daily journal of their symptoms during the course of the study.

After the first week, researchers noticed there was very little difference between the two groups. Of those in the group getting the real thing, 63 percent experienced full relief of their prior facial pain or pressure, compared with almost 56 percent who took no steriods. The investigators say the difference was so slim, it wasn’t significant.

While the researchers found that steroids might reduce symptoms ever so slightly, for the most part, cold sufferers may do best sticking with over-the-counter remedies.