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Written by Robert Sheriff, MS, CIH, CSP, and Henry P. Shotwell, Ph.D., CIH, Vice President
November 5, 2018, Updated June 2019
Wondering Whether Mold and Chronic Sinusitis are Linked?
Do you suffer from frequent sinus headaches, congestion, and runny nose? Have you taken enough cold and allergy medication to qualify for “frequent flier” awards? You may not have a persistent cold or allergies. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have discovered what may be the real cause of most chronic sinus conditions: MOLD!
Americans Suffering from Chronic Sinusitis
An estimated 37 million Americans suffer from chronic sinusitis, and the incidence has been steadily increasing. The condition is an inflammation of the nose and sinus cavity membranes and frequently leads to polyps, which are small growths in the nasal passages that make breathing difficult.
Mayo Clinic Research Findings
Mayo researchers Drs. David Sherris, Eugene Kern and Jens Ponikau wrote in the September 1999 issue of the journal, Mayo Clinic Proceedings that up to now, the cause of chronic sinusitis has not been known. Fungus allergy was thought to be involved in less than 10% of cases. But, their studies showed that in nearly all cases, the fungus is the likely cause. And, it is not an allergic reaction, but an immune reaction.
Using new methods of collecting and testing nasal mucus, they found a total of 40 different kinds of fungi in 96% of the 210 chronic sinusitis sufferers the researchers studied. In a group of 101 sufferers who had nasal polyps removed surgically, 96% of them had eosinophils, a type of white blood cell that is activated by the body’s immune system, in their nasal tissues and mucus-indicative of mold/fungi is a contributing agent.
According to the researchers, sensitive individuals’ immune systems will send eosinophils to attach to mold spores which have landed in the nasal passages, but the eosinophils themselves are irritating to the nasal tissues. So, if mold spores land inside the nasal passages and eosinophils are present, pressure headaches due to swollen tissues, congestion, and runny nose ensue. This finding is a potential breakthrough that offers great hope for the millions who suffer from chronic sinusitis. According to Dr. Kern, “we can now begin to treat the cause of this problem instead of the symptoms.”
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