It Takes 10 Years for Your Sinuses to Recover From Smoking

“The symptoms making my patients miserable are exacerbated by smoking."
July 13, 2017, 2:04pm
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Smoking is bad for your health. But people still do it, sometimes because it's so hard to stop. But for anyone looking to quit with the coffin nails, a new study offers one more reason: Smokers with chronic sinus disease see their condition improve after they quit. The only downside? It takes about ten years to make a full recovery.

Researchers at the Sinus Center at Massachusetts Eye and Ear looked at 103 former smokers and 103 non-smokers who had chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS). CRS, a common condition, starts with inflammation and swelling of the sinus linings, which interferes with drainage and causes mucus buildup. Those who have it often report difficulty breathing and sleeping, with pain and a swollen feeling around the eyes and face.


Previous studies have shown that smoking harms the sinuses by changing the lining of the nose, inhibiting their ability to clear mucus. It also irritates the nasal lining, adding to swelling and inflammation; it may also change the balance of microorganisms inside the nose. In short, if you have CRS, smoking exacerbates all your problems.

Not surprisingly, then, researchers found that smokers with CRS showed overall worse symptoms than their non-smoking counterparts. They also reported using more antibiotics and oral corticosteroids (which help reduce inflammation in the sinuses).

So far, expected results. But researchers also noticed that every year without smoking was associated with improved symptoms and less need for medication. Researchers estimate that over a decade, former smokers could see the harmful effects of smoking on CRS completely reversed.

"If patients tell me that they are smoking, I now have direct evidence to say that the same symptoms that are making them miserable are exacerbated further by smoking," Ahmad R. Sedaghat, a sinus surgeon and the study's senior author, said in a statement. "On the other hand, we can also be optimistic, because we have evidence to suggest that if you quit smoking, things will get better—on the order of 10 years." In other words, it's never too late to quit.

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