Sinusitis is inflammation of the sinus cavities. It is usually associated with infection. The sinus cavities are air-filled spaces in the skull.
Sinusitis is called acute if it lasts for less than 4 weeks, subacute if it lasts 4-12 weeks, and chronic if symptoms last for more than 3 months. You may have recurrent sinusitis if you have repeated bouts of acute sinusitis.
|Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.|
Infectious sinusitis is caused by bacterial, viral, or rarely fungal infection of fluid in the sinus cavities.
Factors that may increase your chance of sinusitis include:
- Recent viral infection
- Smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke
- Other sources of indoor or outdoor air pollution
- Allergies or asthma
- Abnormalities of the facial bones, sinuses, or nasal passages, such as:
- Certain chronic illnesses, including:
- HIV infection and other disorders of the immune system
- Head injury or a medical condition requiring a tube to be inserted into the nose
- Cocaine and other drugs inhaled through the nose
Sinusitis may cause:
- Facial congestion or fullness
- Facial pain or pressure that increases when you bend over or press on the area
- Cough, which is often worse at night
- Nasal congestion not responding well to either decongestants or antihistamines
- Runny nose or postnasal drip
- Thick, yellow, or green mucus
- Bad breath
- Ear pain, pressure, or fullness
- Dental pain
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Sinusitis is diagnosed based on its symptoms and tenderness of the sinuses when pressed.
Tests may include:
- Holding a flashlight up to the sinuses to see if they light up
- CT scan or x-ray of the sinuses to look for fluid in the sinus
- Endoscopic examination of the sinuses—threading a tiny, lighted tube into the nasal cavities to view the sinus opening
- Removing sinus fluid through a needle for testing (rare)
You have may acute sinusitis when the following occurs:
- History of 10 or more days of colored mucous, or visibly infected mucus
- Tenderness over the sinuses
- Difficulty smelling
- Hydrating—Drinking lots of fluids may keep your nasal secretions thin. This will avoid plugging up your nasal passages and sinuses. Saline nasal sprays or irrigation may also loosen nasal secretions.
- Using steam treatments—Keep a humidifier running in your bedroom. Fill a bowl with steaming water every couple of hours. Make a steam tent with a towel over your head. This will let you breathe in the steam.
- Nasal and sinus washes.
- Antibiotics—Used to treat bacterial infections.
Over-the-counter pain relievers.
- Note: Aspirin is not recommended for children with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving your child aspirin.
- Antihistamines—Help sinusitis symptoms if they are caused by allergies.
- Intranasal corticosteroids—These are inhaled directly into your nose through a nasal spray. Corticosteroids may help relieve congestion by decreasing swelling in the lining of the nose in people with allergies.
- Decongestants—Use either decongestant pills or nasal sprays to shrink nasal passages. Do not use nasal sprays for longer than 3-4 days in a row.
- Guaifenesin—Helps you cough up secretions, but hydration is more effective.
Surgery is a last resort for people with very troublesome, serious chronic sinusitis. It includes:
- Repair of a deviated septum
- Removal of nasal polyps
- Functional endoscopic sinus surgery—a lighted scope is used to enlarge the sinuses to improve drainage
- Balloon sinuplasty—a tube with a balloon attached is inserted into the sinuses (the balloon is inflated to open the sinus passages)
To help reduce your chance of sinusitis:
- Have allergy testing to find out what things you are allergic to and to learn how to treat your allergies.
- Avoid substances you know you are allergic to.
- If you have allergies, stick with your treatment plan.
- If you get a cold, drink lots of fluids and use a decongestant.
- Use sinus washes as directed.
- Blow your nose gently, while pressing one nostril closed.
- If you must travel by air, use a nasal spray decongestant to decrease inflammation prior to takeoff and landing.
- Use a humidifier when you have a cold, allergic symptoms, or sinusitis.
- Use HEPA filters for your furnace and vacuum cleaner to remove allergens from the air.
- Avoid cigarette smoke.
- Michael Woods, MD
- Reviewed: 09/2014
- Updated: 09/30/2014
All EBSCO Publishing proprietary, consumer health and medical information found on this site is accredited by URAC. URAC's Health Web Site Accreditation Program requires compliance with 53 rigorous standards of quality and accountability, verified by independent audits. To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at HLEditorialTeam@ebscohost.com.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.