Sinus infection, or sinusitis, is an inflammation of the sinuses and nasal passages. A sinus infection can cause a headache or pressure in the eyes, nose, cheek area, or on one side of the head. A person with a sinus infection may also have a cough, a fever, bad breath, and nasal congestion with thick nasal secretions. Sinusitis is categorized as acute (sudden onset) or chronic (long term, the most common type). Anatomy of the sinuses (also called paranasal sinuses): The human skull contains four major pairs of hollow air-filled-cavities called sinuses. These are connected to the space between the nostrils and the nasal passage. Sinuses help insulate the skull, reduce its weight, and allow the voice to resonate within it. The four major pairs of sinuses are the:
Frontal sinuses (in the forehead)
Maxillary sinuses (behind the cheek bones)
Ethmoid sinuses (between the eyes)
Sphenoid sinuses (behind the eyes)
Alternative Names of Sinusitis are: sinus infection, sinusitis, acute sinusitis, chronic sinusitis, sinus headache, bronchitis, rhinosinusitis, ethmoiditis, sphenoiditis, antritis, hay fever, viral infection, bacterial infection, allergens, allergy, allergies, indoor allergy, indoor allergies, and headache.
Complications of Sinusitis
Chronic sinusitis complications include:
Asthma flare ups. Chronic sinusitis can trigger an asthma attack.
Meningitis, an infection that causes inflammation of the membranes and fluid surrounding your brain and spinal cord.
Vision problems. If infection spreads to your eye socket, it can cause reduced vision or even blindness that can be permanent.
Aneurysms or blood clots. Infection can cause problems in the veins surrounding the sinuses, interfering with blood supply to your brain putting you at risk of a stroke.
Causes of Sinusitis
Common causes of chronic sinusitis include:
Nasal polyps or tumors. These tissue growths may block the nasal passages or sinuses.
Allergic reactions. Allergic triggers include fungal infection of the sinuses.
Deviated nasal septum. A crooked septum — the wall between the nostrils — may restrict or block sinus passages.
Trauma to the face. A fractured or broken facial bone may cause obstruction of the sinus passages.
Other medical conditions. The complications of cystic fibrosis, gastroesophageal reflux, or HIV and other immune system diseases may result in nasal blockage.
Respiratory tract infections. Infections in your respiratory tract — most commonly, colds — can inflame and thicken your sinus membranes, blocking mucus drainage and creating conditions ripe for growth of bacteria. These infections can be viral, bacterial or fungal in nature.
Allergies such as hay fever. Inflammation that occurs with allergies may block your sinuses.
Immune system cells. With certain health conditions, immune cells called eosinophils can cause sinus inflammation.
Signs & Symptoms of Sinusitis
Chronic sinusitis symptoms include:
Drainage of a thick, yellow or greenish discharge from the nose or down the back of the throat
Nasal obstruction or congestion, causing difficulty breathing through your nose
Pain, tenderness and swelling around your eyes, cheeks, nose or forehead
Aching in your upper jaw and teeth
Reduced sense of smell and taste
Cough, which may be worse at night
Other signs and symptoms can include:
Bad breath (halitosis)
Fatigue or irritability
The signs and symptoms of chronic sinusitis are similar to acute sinusitis, except they last longer and often cause more significant fatigue. Chronic sinusitis is sinusitis that lasts more than eight weeks or keeps coming back. Unlike with acute sinusitis, fever isn't a common sign of chronic sinusitis.
Diagnosis of Sinusitis
Your doctor may use several methods to help screen for chronic sinusitis:
Nasal endoscopy. A thin, flexible tube (endoscope) with a fiber-optic light inserted through your nose allows your doctor to visually inspect the inside of your sinuses.
Imaging studies. Images taken using computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can show details of your sinuses and nasal area. These may identify a deep inflammation or physical obstruction that's difficult to detect using an endoscope.
Nasal and sinus cultures. Laboratory tests are generally unnecessary for diagnosing chronic sinusitis. However, in cases in which the condition fails to respond to treatment or is progressing, tissue cultures may help pinpoint the cause, such as identifying a bacterial pathogen.
An allergy test. If your doctor suspects that the condition may be brought on by allergies, an allergy skin test may be recommended. A skin test is safe and quick and can help pinpoint the allergen that's responsible for your nasal flare-ups.
Treatments of Sinusitis
If a bacterial infection is present, antibiotics, such as amoxicillin, erythromycin or sulfa drugs, are usually prescribed for about 10 days.
Your doctor also may prescribe one or more of the following remedies (which can be useful in reducing inflammation in the sinuses and nose and speeding recovery):
Over-the-Counter Nasal Sprays.
Prevention of Sinusitis
Take these steps to reduce your risk of getting chronic sinusitis:
Avoid upper respiratory infections. Minimize contact with people who have colds. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, especially before your meals.
Carefully manage your allergies. Work with your doctor to keep symptoms under control.
Avoid cigarette smoke and polluted air. Tobacco smoke and air contaminants can irritate and inflame your lungs and nasal passages.
Use a humidifier. If the air in your home is dry, such as it is if you have forced hot air heat, adding moisture to the air may help prevent sinusitis. Be sure the humidifier stays clean and free of mold with regular, thorough cleaning.
When to seek Medical Advice
You may have several episodes of acute sinusitis, lasting less than four weeks, before developing chronic sinusitis. You may be referred to an allergist or an ear, nose and throat specialist for evaluation and treatment.
See a doctor:
If you've had sinusitis a number of times and the condition fails to respond to treatment
If you have sinusitis that lasts more than 7 days
If your symptoms don't get better after you see your doctor
See a doctor immediately if you have symptoms that may be a sign of a serious infection: