Statistics show more than 31 million people across the U.S. suffer from chronic sinus problems, which affects their ability to breathe, sleep, smell and taste.
But a developing medical breakthrough could bring relief to those symptoms.
Many people are familiar with the stents doctors use to treat heart patients suffering from clogged arteries. That same concept is now being applied to clogged sinuses.
The an idea has helped a number of patients breathe easy for the first time in years,
For 64 year-old Mike Whitty, it has been a long time since he could breathe through his nose.
"In college, I started getting some sinus issues," he said. "I wound up doing the nasal spray thing."
Through the years, Whitty says it only got worse.
"I was a professional tennis player up until I was 30, he said. "And so throughout that whole time, it was never breathing through the nose. It was always breathing through the mouth."
His chronic sinus problems also made it difficult for him to sleep and flying for business downright painful, Whitty recalled.
"I would have to sit in my seat and just hold my face or have a hot compress on it," he said. "Within the last two years, it got to the point where it was 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I just couldn't breathe."
Whitty turned to ear, nose, and throat doctor Daniel Rontal, who offered Whitty something beyond traditional sinus surgery – a stent device called the propel implant.
Read more about the propel implant here (http://bit.ly/141VX9U)
"We do our normal sinus surgery, open up the sinuses widely, let the air in, remove the polyps, remove the infection, and afterwards, we place this device into the sinuses," Rontal explained.
The stent props the area open and slowly releases a steroid called mometasone, to reduce scarring and inflammation.
After five or six weeks, the whole device dissolves away.
"Patients typically don't even know that it's there. they don't feel anything in there," Rontal said.
"We're treating the disease right at the source as opposed to swallowing the pills or having an iv that gets dissolved throughout the whole body. Here we're treating right at the spot of the disease. the studies that have been done on this device show that it reduces the need for further surgery up to 30 percent."
The device is an option for patients suffering from chronic sinusitis, which consists of more than three months of symptoms including facial pain or pressure, nasal congestion or discharge, loss of smell or taste, headaches, fatigue and depression.
Whitty had the surgery in January.
"Once I had it, it was like night and day."
Whitty said he is breathing properly, and suddenly, smelling things he didn't realize he was missing, both good and bad.
"A lot of stuff comes across as a lot more pungent," he admitted. "Taking the trash out and throwing it away, you can smell the trash a whole lot more now. i wish i would have had it done a long long time ago. i wish they would have had it a long time ago. it's just nice not to have to worry about breathing anymore."
Rontal says the stent itself does not add any risks. The sinus surgery itself, however, does have serious risks. Those risks can be discussed with a doctor, Rontal said.