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More room in her medicine cabinet

Sinus sufferer found a permanent solution to her chronic condition.

Article Author: Johnny Woodhouse

Article Date:

photo for More room in her medicine cabinet article
Scott Scharer, MD, discusses a CT scan with ENT patient Leigh Ann Rassler.

In June 2018, Leigh Ann Rassler celebrated the one-year anniversary of her life-changing sinus surgery with a visitor's post on Baptist Health's Facebook page.

"Thank you, Scott Scharer, MD, and your team for drastically improving my quality of life," her post read.

The days of waking up every morning with dark circles under her eyes, constant facial pain, and sinus pressure are a distant memory for Rassler.

Her medicine cabinet has a lot more shelf room, too.

"The only time I take something now is when my eyes are itching; it's not because I'm sneezing," she said. "And if I do take an antihistamine, I break it in half."

A busy public relations executive, Rassler never thought there was anything that could be surgically done to relieve the chronic sinus problems that had plagued her since the early 1990s.

Then her Baptist Primary Care physician, H. Jackson Downey, MD, referred her to Dr. Scharer, a board-certified otolaryngologist, or ear, nose and throat specialist.

"It just so happened that the day I saw Dr. Scharer, I had a full-blown sinus infection," recalled Rassler. "He sent me to have a CT scan and when I went back to see him, I knew he wasn't just going to prescribe meds because when he walked into the exam room he was holding a laptop."

On the laptop were images of Rassler's CT scan, which showed that five of her eight sinuses were blocked. She also had a deviated septum, where one nasal passage is smaller than the other, and a swollen turbinate, a boney structure on the side of the inner nose that helps regulate airflow.

Dr. Scharer performed a procedure to straighten Rassler's deviated septum, followed by endoscopic sinus surgery to enlarge her nasal drainage pathways and improve her sinus ventilation.

Rassler's surgery took about 90 minutes. She was out of work for a few weeks, but hasn't taken a sick day since. "It's been over a year and I haven't had any sinus issues," she said. "My face doesn't hurt and my ears are not closed up anymore."

According to Dr. Scharer, it's important to stress that there is no surgical cure for environmental allergies. However, there are people who have severe underlying anatomical constraints that make it much more difficult for them to breathe comfortably, or make it much more likely for the mucus to get trapped if they get a cold or allergy flare-up.

"Those are the patients that can really benefit from sinonasal procedures," added Dr. Scharer.

In her spare time, Rassler creates and executes film promotions, serves as a local film critic and enjoys attending movie conventions.

"It's my passion, but I always had to worry if a different climate would set off another sinus infection," she said.

"I've been on several trips since the surgery and I haven't gotten sick. Before, my body was always fighting these infections. I can even breathe through my nose now when I run on the treadmill, and lift weights and do exercises that I used to avoid due to sinus pain and pressure."

If you are a sinus sufferer, call 904.202.4YOU (4968) or fill out the appointment request form for help finding an ear, nose and throat specialist near you.

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