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Sinusitis is an inflammation of the mucous membranes inside the nose and sinuses. Symptoms of sinusitis include pain in the face, a stuffy nose, and drainage from the nose. Sinusitis can be either acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term). Sinusitis is chronic when it lasts 12 weeks or more.
The cause of sinusitis varies depending on which type you have. Acute sinusitis is mainly caused by viruses but can also be caused by bacteria. The cause of chronic sinusitis may not be known, or it may be related to allergies, infections, or nasal polyps.
Symptoms include pain and pressure in the head and face along with a stuffy or blocked nose. Other symptoms include drainage from the nose or down the back of the throat, a reduced sense of smell, ear pain, and tooth pain. Children often also have a cough.
Your doctor will ask about your current symptoms and how long you've had them. The doctor will also do a physical exam. You probably won't need any other tests if you have acute sinusitis. But you may need more tests if treatment doesn't help, if you have chronic sinusitis, or if you have complications.
Treatment depends on if you have acute or chronic sinusitis. A steroid nose spray along with a saline nose wash may relieve symptoms. If you have a bacterial infection, you may take antibiotics. Other medicines may be used. Surgery may be needed when sinusitis is chronic or severe and doesn't get better with medicines.
Acute sinusitis (short-term) is usually caused by a virus, but it can sometimes be caused by bacteria. When the mucous membranes inside the nose and sinuses get inflamed from a viral infection like a cold, they swell and make more mucus. This can block the normal drainage of fluid from the sinuses into the nose and throat. If the fluid and mucus can't drain, they build up over time. Bacteria may start to grow in them. These bacterial infections can cause more swelling and pain.
Sinusitis is called chronic (long-term) if the inflammation of the nose and sinus tissues lasts more than 12 weeks. Anything that causes the nose and sinuses to be inflamed for a long time can cause chronic sinusitis. This includes allergies and nasal polyps. A deviated nasal septum can also make it worse.
There are several ways you may reduce your chance of getting sinusitis.
This can help you prevent an infection from developing in your sinuses.
Smoke causes and further irritates inflamed membranes in your nose and sinuses.
Consider talking to your doctor about immunotherapy, such as allergy shots.
Consider using a humidifier at home and work to increase the moisture in the air. Follow the directions for cleaning the machine.
Symptoms include pain and pressure in the face along with a stuffy or blocked nose. Other symptoms include drainage from the nose or down the back of the throat. Leaning forward or moving your head may increase the pain in your face.
Other common symptoms of sinusitis may include:
There are two main types of sinusitis: acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term). Acute sinusitis often develops after a cold or viral infection. Swelling, inflammation, and a buildup of mucus caused by the cold can block the normal drainage of the nose and sinuses. This makes it easier for germs like viruses and bacteria to grow in the sinuses. Most sinus infections get better on their own. But antibiotics may be needed if there is a bacterial infection.
When inflammation in the sinuses lasts 12 weeks or longer, it is called chronic sinusitis. Anything that causes the sinuses to become inflamed and stay inflamed can lead to chronic sinusitis. This includes nasal allergies and nasal polyps that block the nasal passages or reduce drainage from the nose and sinuses. A deviated nasal septum can also make it worse.
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
Call your doctor if:
Watchful waiting is okay if you have symptoms of an early sinus infection (such as pain and pressure in your head along with a stuffy or runny nose). An early sinus infection can often be treated at home. If you develop symptoms of a sinus infection, start home treatment. This includes drinking lots of fluids and using saline nasal washes. Check the symptoms above to decide whether you need to call a doctor.
Your doctor can tell if you have sinusitis by asking questions about your current symptoms and how long you've had them. The doctor will also do a physical exam. You probably won't need any other tests. But you may need more tests if medicine doesn't help or your symptoms are chronic (long-term). More tests are also needed if you have problems caused by an infection. Tests may include an endoscopic sinus exam (nasal endoscopy) or CT scan.
Your doctor may refer you to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist. This may be needed if you don't get better over time. An ENT specialist will take a closer look at your nasal passages and upper throat. If allergies could be causing your sinus problems, you may need to see an allergist (immunologist).
Treatment depends on if you have acute or chronic sinusitis. A steroid nose spray along with a saline nose wash may relieve your symptoms. If needed, over-the-counter medicine can help with pain and pressure. If you have a bacterial infection, you may also get antibiotics. Other medicines may also be used.
Surgery may be needed when sinusitis is chronic or severe and doesn't get better with medicines.
Certain medicines may be used to treat acute or chronic sinusitis. Your doctor will let you know which medicine can help treat the type of sinusitis you have. You may use more than one medicine. Medicines may include:
Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
Current as of:
February 28, 2023
Author: Healthwise StaffClinical Review Board: All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.
Current as of: February 28, 2023
Clinical Review Board:
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
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