Sinus infection: overview and more

A sinus infection, also called sinusitis, is an inflammation of the air spaces around the nose and eyes, including the paranasal cavities. When sinus drainage is blocked, the sinuses fill with mucus, which can cause pain and pressure sensations.

Acute sinus infections often begin as inflammation from an allergy or a viral infection (such as the common cold) and sometimes progress to a bacterial infection. Chronic sinus infections are usually the result of ongoing inflammation. Structural abnormalities in the sinuses can predispose to chronic or recurrent sinusitis. Yeast infections in the sinuses are less common, but can affect people with weakened immune systems.

Nasal sinuses

The sinuses are bone-surrounded air spaces near the eyes, nose, cheeks, and forehead. These include the frontal, maxillary, sphenoid, and ethmoid sinuses.

The sinuses are lined with mucous membranes that generally produce mucus, a fluid that helps trap waste. Microscopic, hair-like cilia line the membranes and glide over mucus, which generally drains into the nasal passages during the day.

When the sinus drainage sites are blocked, they cannot drain and an infection can develop. Mucus becomes thick by inflammatory cells and bacteria during infection, changes its consistency from watery to thick, and changes color from clear to yellow or green.

Symptoms of sinus infection

Sinus infections can be divided into different categories based on the duration of the infection.

In acute sinusitis , symptoms persist for less than four weeks. Subacute sinusitis indicates that symptoms have been present for more than four but less than 12 weeks.

Symptoms commonly associated with acute and subacute sinusitis include:

  • Facial pain and pressure on the affected sinuses (sinuses)
  • Nasal congestion
  • Colored nasal discharge
  • Reduce smell and taste.
  • Hot
  • Headache
  • Bad breath / bad taste
  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Toothache
  • Ear pressure / pain

A viral sinus infection usually clears up without treatment. Acute bacterial sinus infection on the other hand, it is suggested if your symptoms persist for more than 10 days, if they worsen after improvement or if they are severe.

Acute invasive fungal infection is a rare type of sinus infection that can affect people with severely weakened immune systems. Symptoms begin with fever, cough, nosebleed, and headache. These infections can affect the eyes with symptoms of edema or vision changes, and can also affect the brain.

Chronic sinusitis

Symptoms of chronic sinusitis. soft and includes:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Postnasal discharge or runny nose with mucus
  • Pain or pressure in the face
  • Decreased sense of smell and taste.
  • Chronic cough (in children)

If chronic sinusitis is caused by a non-invasive fungal sinusitis (fungal lump), it will only cause a few symptoms, which may include just a feeling of fullness, sinus pressure, and some discharge. Chronic invasive fungal sinusitis It mainly affects people with weakened immunity. It causes the usual symptoms of chronic sinusitis for a long time, but can cause severe symptoms of blurred vision and inability to move the eye as the infection progresses.

Chronic sinusitis is diagnosed if symptoms persist for 12 weeks or longer.

Recurrent sinusitis

These sinus infections have the usual symptoms of acute sinusitis and resolve between attacks.

You are considered to have recurrent sinusitis if you have four or more sinus infections per year.


Complications from sinus infections are rare, but the infection can spread to the tissues around the eyes, skull, or brain. See your doctor right away if you have symptoms such as a high fever, swelling around the eyes or forehead, confusion, a severe headache, or vision changes.


Allergic rhinitis and upper respiratory tract infections are risk factors for acute and chronic sinusitis. Other conditions that can increase the chance of developing sinus infections include gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and non- allergic rhinitis . You may be more prone to any form of sinusitis if you have structural abnormalities that prevent sinus drainage.

Problems with low immune function are the biggest risk factor for fungal sinusitis, but they also increase the risk of several types of viral and bacterial infections. Immunodeficiency conditions can be the result of a genetic problem (such as cystic fibrosis ), an infection (such as HIV / AIDS ), or diseases that affect antibody levels (such as multiple myeloma ). Diabetes can also be a risk factor for fungal sinus infections.

Acute or subacute sinus infections

Acute or subacute sinus infection begins with inflammation of the nasal passages, which can occur from an irritant, an allergy, or an infection, such as a cold. The resulting blockage of sinus drainage leads to infection.

Chronic or recurring sinus infections

Chronic or recurrent sinusitis is usually caused by ongoing inflammation rather than infection. It can develop due to factors such as allergic rhinitis, fungal allergies, aspirin-aggravated respiratory illness (AERD), exposure to irritants (such as cigarette smoke), or recurrent viral infections.

Other causes of chronic or recurrent sinus infections include structural abnormalities. inside the nasal passages and sinuses, for example, a curved septum (a structure that divides the nasal passage into two sides); enlarged adenoids; enlarged turbinates (structures that heat the air in the nose); nasal polyps; and other bone abnormalities that can interfere with sinus drainage.

Yeast infections in the sinuses

A sinus yeast infection can develop as a non-invasive yeast lump or as an invasive yeast infection that can damage nearby structures. A fungal ball can develop when dead cells and debris from inflammation or injury accumulate in the sinuses and fungi, which are normally present in the air, begin to grow. This can cause further irritation and inflammation.

These organisms are present in the air, but generally do not enter the body; They can only grow when the body's immune defenses are very low.

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A sinus infection is diagnosed based on your symptoms and a physical exam by your healthcare provider. Generally, no other tests are required to diagnose uncomplicated acute or subacute sinus infections. If an allergy is suspected, you may be referred for an allergy test. If you have chronic or recurring sinusitis, your healthcare provider may order a CT scan to look for the underlying cause.

Microscopic examination and sinus aspirate culture can help diagnose resistant fungal or bacterial infections.

For severe cases of sinusitis, especially those that do not respond to conventional treatments, you may be referred to an otolaryngologist or otolaryngologist (otolaryngologist) .

Watch out

Treatment for a sinus infection depends on the cause. Typical acute / subacute sinus infections resolve in 10 days or less. For convenience, you or your child only need symptomatic treatment. A saline nasal spray or, for adults, a saline nasal irrigation can help clear mucus from the nasal passages and sinuses. These remedies can also be helpful for adults with chronic or recurrent sinusitis.

The main treatment for bacterial sinus infections is with a 10-14 day course of antibiotics (usually amoxicillin or amoxicillin-clavulanate).

Chronic infections

Treatment for a chronic sinus infection often includes a nasal steroid spray. In cases of severe inflammation, oral steroids like prednisone are often recommended for three to ten days.

Other helpful medications include topical or oral decongestants. Antibiotics may or may not be prescribed depending on the presence of a bacterial infection. In this case, therapy can be continued for four to six weeks.


Some people require surgery if recurrent sinus infections are caused by severe structural problems or nasal polyps . Endoscopic surgery may also be necessary for a fungal sinus infection.

Get the word of drug information

While a sinus infection usually clears up on its own, it can be quite debilitating while you have it, often distracting you from almost everything but the discomfort it causes. Remember, it usually takes several days before relief. While you wait, you can take over-the-counter pain relievers, drink plenty of fluids, get plenty of rest, use a humidifier, and apply a warm compress to your face for added comfort. And if your symptoms persist for more than 10 days, be sure to talk to your doctor again.

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