Sinusitis, or commonly known as a sinus infection, is an infection or inflammation of the nasal sinuses. Acute bacterial sinusitis can occur after a person develops an upper respiratory tract infection ( a cold). Caused by viruses, a cold can cause swelling in the nasal passages, making it difficult for the sinuses to drain normally. The sinuses then become infected with bacteria. Chronic sinusitis is due to long-standing inflammation and swelling that do not go away on their own and require medical attention to remedy.
Sometimes people who have chronic sinusitis develop acute sinusitis in addition to their existing conditions. Individuals who have hay fever and nasal allergies (allergic rhinitis) or who have asthma are more likely to develop chronic sinusitis and nasal polyps.
Types of Sinusitis
- Acute sinusitis: A sudden onset of cold-like symptoms such as runny, stuffy nose and facial pain that may typically lasts 4 weeks or less.
- Subacute sinusitis: An inflammation lasting 4 to 8 weeks.
- Chronic sinusitis: A condition characterized by sinus inflammation symptoms lasting 8 weeks or longer.
- Recurrent sinusitis: Several attacks within a year.
Signs and Symptoms
- Facial pain or pressure
- Nasal congestion and Discharge
- Difficulty breathing through the nose and loss of sense of smell
- Postnasal drip
Diagnosis and Testing
Nasal passages may be red, irritated, or inflamed. Modern medical devices such as Computed Tomography (CT) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) may also show the sinuses filled with fluid or inflamed and detect more severe issues. Major complications can occur from untreated chronic sinusitis including damage to the ocular (vision) system, meningitis, or encephalitis.
A course of treatment may include rest and antibiotics. Your healthcare practitioner will recommend the best course of treatment for you. Below are some common treatment methods.
- Decongestants to reduce swelling in nasal passages
- Oral steroids reduce swelling in the nasal cavity and improve inflammation within the sinus cavities.
- Other medications that reduce inflammation of the entire airway
- Nasal irrigation with salt water
- Endoscopic surgery may be recommended for those who have severe chronic sinusitis