What is sinusitis?

Sinusitis is an infection of the lining of the sinuses near the nose. These infections most often happen after a cold or after an allergy flare-up. There are 4 types:

  • Acute. Symptoms last less than 4
    weeks and get better with the correct care.
  • Subacute. Does not get better with
    treatment at first. Symptoms last 4 to 12 weeks.
  • Chronic. Happens with repeated or
    poorly treated acute infections. Symptoms last 12 weeks or longer.
  • Recurrent. If you have 3 or more episodes of acute sinusitis in a year, it’s called recurrent.

The sinuses are air-filled pockets
(cavities) near the nose passage. The sinuses make mucus. This fluid cleans the bacteria
and other particles out of the air you breathe. 

What causes sinusitis?

A sinus infection can happen after a cold. The cold inflames the nasal passages. This can block the opening of the sinuses and lead to infection. Allergies can also cause the nasal tissue to swell and make more mucus and cause sinusitis.

Other conditions that can lead to sinusitis include:

  • Abnormalities in the structure of the nose
  • Enlarged adenoids
  • Diving and swimming
  • Tooth infections
  • Nose injury
  • Foreign objects that are stuck in the nose
  • Secondhand smoke

If mucus drainage is blocked, bacteria may start to grow. This leads to a sinus infection, or sinusitis. The most common viruses and bacteria that cause sinusitis also cause the flu or certain kinds of pneumonia.

What are the symptoms of sinusitis?

The symptoms of sinusitis may
depend on your age. These are the most common symptoms:

Younger children

  • Runny nose that lasts longer than 7 to 10 days. The discharge is often thick green or yellow, but can also be clear.
  • Cough at night
  • Occasional daytime cough
  • Swelling around the eyes

Older children and adults

  • Runny nose or cold symptoms that last longer than 7 to 10 days
  • Complaints of drip in the throat from the nose
  • Headaches
  • Facial pain
  • Bad breath
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Swelling around the eyes, worse in the morning

The symptoms of sinusitis may look
like other conditions or health problems. Always talk with your healthcare provider for
a diagnosis.

How is sinusitis diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider can often
diagnose sinusitis based on your symptoms and a physical exam. Sometimes other tests are
done. These may include:

  • Cultures from the nose
  • Sinus X-rays
  • Sinus CT scan. This imaging test uses
    X-rays and computer technology to make images of the body.
  • Blood tests