Judith Schofield, 69, of Independence, Mo., had sinus trouble so severe that she was nearly housebound. She took every medication available, but still had sinus headaches, facial pressure, and a stuffy nose; she even started to lose her hearing.

By As told to: Eric Metcalf
May 01, 2012

judy-schofield"After surgery, my life became my own again."(JUDY SCHOFIELD)I've had allergies, asthma, and sinus problems since I was in my early teens, but for most of my life it wasn't a big problem. But when I moved across Missouri to the Kansas City area in 1993, my sinus symptoms just kept getting worse and worse.

It started to affect my life in a big way. I had headaches and pressure in my face. I couldn't breathe through my nose while I was in bed. And I was starting to lose my hearing due to fluid buildup in my ears.

Because allergies can cause sinus tissue to swell, which can lead to an infection, I visited an allergist. Tests showed that I was allergic to certain types of grass. He started giving me weekly injections to treat my allergies, but my health kept getting worse. I was using an inhaler and a nebulizer for my asthma. I frequently took the antibiotic Levaquin and the steroid prednisone. I used nasal spray. It seemed like I was on every medicine imaginable.

Nothing seemed to help, and I got to the point where I was nearly housebound. Plus, my sinus problem was making my asthma even worse.

We live in a historic house, with a basement and plenty of woodwork, and one doctor told me we needed to sell the home and move into a cleaner environment. He also urged me to get rid of my cat and dog because of the allergens. Everything I loved and valued, I was told to give up. I didn't listen; we stayed in the home. But I did have an environmental company test the house—it didn't even have that much mold or dust in it.

An ear, nose, and throat doctor recommended sinus surgery. But one of my daughters had had sinus surgery, and it was an ordeal. She had black eyes afterward, and her nose was packed with gauze. What's worse, the surgery didn't really help her sinus symptoms. So I said, "Sinus surgery is not for me." The doctor got angry and sort of tossed my records at me and said there was nothing else he could do for me.

Next Page: A CT scan convinced me to have surgery [ pagebreak ]A CT scan convinced me to have surgery
In 2005, my allergist recommended that I see another surgeon. He showed me CT images of the sinuses above my eyebrows and below my eyes. They were packed tight with swollen tissue. He said they may have been that way for 40 years. Thinking back on it, I rarely sneezed, and my nose never ran, so maybe he was onto something. He suggested a type of sinus surgery that was quick and didn't require a painful recovery. This time, I agreed to do it.

While I was under—which was only for an hour or so—the surgeon opened larger passageways between my nasal cavity and my sinuses, to allow my sinuses to drain. He also sucked out some gunk from my sinuses. I had no black eyes afterward, and the packing he used to prevent bleeding dissolved on its own, so I didn't have the discomfort of having gauze pulled out of my nose later on. He thought that I'd be able to breathe through my nose within three days, and by golly, I could.

My life became my own again. I can watch ball games in the summer. My husband's family has a farm where we grow corn and soybeans and raise cattle, and the farm has an old house built in 1906. I can enjoy the farm and even stay in the house, whereas before I couldn't even be outside in the summertime. I sleep easier at night, and the hearing has come back to my stopped-up ears.

I still take some medication and use my inhaler for asthma symptoms. I also regularly clean out my sinuses with a saltwater wash. However, I feel like the sinus surgery helped make these treatments more effective than they were in the past.

Perhaps the strangest thing that happened after the sinus surgery was a visible change in the shape of my face. I look more like my family! I've always had high cheekbones, but before you couldnt see them because my face was puffy from the sinus problems. My relatives would laugh at family get-togethers and tell me that I didn't take after the rest of them. But now I have cheekbones—just like the rest of my family.