Sinusitis is inflammation of the sinus cavities. The sinus cavities are air-filled spaces in the skull. It is usually associated with infection.
Sinusitis is called acute if it lasts for less than 4 weeks, subacute if it lasts 4-12 weeks, and chronic if symptoms last for more than 3 months. You may have recurrent sinusitis if you have repeated bouts of acute sinusitis.
Infectious sinusitis is caused by a viral, bacterial, or (rarely) fungal infection of fluid in the sinus cavities.
Factors that may increase your chance of sinusitis include:
Sinusitis may cause:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Sinusitis is diagnosed based on its symptoms and tenderness of the sinuses when pressed.
Tests may include:
You have may acute sinusitis when the following occurs:
Most sinus infections are caused by a virus and will pass on their own in 7-10 days. Home care and medications can help manage symptoms.
Infections that last longer or keep coming back may need more care.
Secretions can build up in the nasal and sinus passages. This can add to pressure and pain. Secretions can be loosened with:
Medication may help manage symptoms until the sinusitis passes. Options may inlcude:
Antibiotics are only effective for specific sinus infections. If a sinus infection lasts longer than expected or keeps coming back the doctor may suspect a bacterial infection and recommend antibiotics.
Surgery may be recommended if above treatments have not provided relief for very troublesome, serious chronic sinusitis. Options may include one or more of the following:
To help reduce your chance of sinusitis:
American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Allergy Asthma Information Association
Calgary Allergy Network
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Acute sinusitis in children and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T902949/Acute-sinusitis-in-children-and-adolescents. Updated October 31, 2014. Accessed September 9, 2016.
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Aring AM, Chan MM. Acute rhinosinusitis in adults. Am Fam Physician. 2011;83(9):1057-1063.
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Okuyemi KS, Tsue TT. Radiologic imaging in the management of sinusitis. Am Fam Physician. 2002;66(10):1882-1886.
Sinusitis (sinus infection). National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, National Institutes of Health (NIH) website. Available at: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/sinusitis/Pages/index.aspx. Accessed September 29, 2014.
Stewart AE, Vaughan WC. Balloon sinuplasty versus surgical management of chronic rhinosinusitis. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2010;10(3):181-187.
1/10/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com: Williamson IG, Rumsby K, Benge S, et al. Antibiotics and topical nasal steroid for treatment of acute maxillary sinusitis: A randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2007;298(21):2487-2496.
12/11/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com: Zalmanovici A, Yaphe J. Intranasal steroids for acute sinusitis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009;(4):CD005149.
Last reviewed September 2016 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.