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Sinusitis: Sinus Infection Symptoms and Treatment

Sinusitis: Sinus Infection Symptoms and Treatment

Sinus infection, also called sinusitis, is the infection of the sinuses, which are the hollow air-filled cavities connected to the nasal passage. It is usually caused by cold, allergies, infection or abnormal growth that blocks the nasal passage. Here is a brief overview about sinus infection symptoms and treatment.
Buzzle Staff
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
According to statistics, around 37 million Americans develop sinusitis, at least once a year.
When Does Sinusitis Occur?
Sinusitis occurs when the sinuses get blocked and develop inflammation. A sinus cavity with blocked passages is a perfect location for pathogens to multiply and cause damage to the inner lining of the cavity, causing the symptoms.

Apart from that, the air already inside the sinuses causes pressure, leading to sinus headache. In short, the sinus infection symptoms are caused by the inflammation within the sinus cavities and/or activity of pathogens.
Sinus Infection Types
Sinus infection can be classified on the basis of various factors like the location of the sinuses, specific causative agent, duration of the infection, etc.

Duration: As far as duration is concerned, sinusitis can be divided into acute (sudden onset of symptoms that last for 8 to 10 days) or chronic (lasts for more than 2 months). While chronic sinusitis occurs four to five times a year, the recurrence rate in acute sinusitis is less than three times a year. Another type is sub-acute sinusitis, which lasts for four to eight weeks.

Causative Agent: If the cause is a pathogen or an infectious microorganism like bacterium or virus, then the condition is called infectious sinusitis. If the underlying cause is an allergy or some type of structural blockage, then, it is non-infectious sinusitis. According to some studies, around 30% of patients with sinusitis do not have any infectious microbes in the sinuses or the nasal passage.

Location: Sinus infections may sometimes be named according to the location of the infected cavity. For example, if the infection is in the maxillary sinus, then the condition can be called maxillary sinusitis. Whatever may be the type, sinus infection symptoms can cause severe discomfort to the affected person.
Symptoms of Sinusitis
Some of the common sinus infection symptoms are headache, facial pressure and tenderness. The affected person may also have swollen areas around the eyes, reddened nasal passages, drainage from the nose that is similar to pus and tender facial areas (corresponding to sinus cavities). The type and severity of the symptoms may vary with the type of sinusitis, location of the affected sinus, underlying cause, etc. Let us take a detailed look at the symptoms.
Acute Sinusitis
In this case, sinus infection starts with symptoms like stuffy nose, nasal discharge, facial pain and pressure, etc. Some people may experience loss of smell too. As the condition advances, symptoms like fever, fatigue, bad breath, and post nasal drip may occur. Even cough, dental pain, etc., are noted. The nasal discharge may be thick with a green or yellow color.
  • If the infection is in the maxillary sinuses (under the eyes), the pain and pressure will be felt under the eyes, across the cheekbone on one side or both. This sinus infection may sometimes cause dental pain too.
  • In this case, the pain may worsen with movements like bending forward. The person may feel better while leaning back, but again the pain may aggravate in an upright position.
  • Frontal sinuses located above the eyes, may get affected causing pain and pressure in the forehead. However, those with inflamed frontal sinuses feel relieved when they sit upright and the pain may worsen, as they recline.
  • Acute sinusitis of the ethmoid sinuses (located between the eyes and the nose) may cause pain in the temple or around the eyes. The person may have severe post nasal drip, congestion of the nasal passages and sore throat.
  • For acute ethmoid sinusitis, the pain may worsen while reclining. Even coughing and other stressful activities may aggravate the pain, but sitting upright may provide some relief.
  • Sphenoid (located beneath the eyes) sinusitis can cause pain beneath the eyes, top of the head and forehead. This pain may worsen in a reclining position or while bending forward. In this case, vision problems are also found among the symptoms of sinus infection.
Chronic Sinusitis
Signs and symptoms of chronic sinusitis are nasal blockage, nasal discharge, post nasal drip, headaches, facial congestion, bad breath, fever, etc. In this type, the symptoms may last for around two months.
  • If the maxillary sinuses are affected, then the symptoms would be pain and pressure beneath the eyes, recurrent toothache and cough at nighttime. The pain may worsen with conditions like cold and allergies.
  • Chronic sinusitis of the frontal sinuses may cause persistent post nasal drip and mild to moderate headache. The headache in this case will be almost persistent and concentrated on the forehead. If the sphenoid sinuses are affected with this headache, the affected person may experience a generalized low-grade headache with post nasal drip.
  • Sinus symptoms for chronic ethmoid sinusitis are nasal discharge, low-grade pain and discomfort in between the eyes and sore throat. The pain may worsen during the morning hours.

This was only a brief overview about the common signs and symptoms. Diagnosis is often done with tests, like nasal endoscopy, CT scan, MRI or X-ray. Even allergy tests may be done. However, the doctor will conduct a physical examination of the affected person and study his symptoms and medical history, before opting for the tests.
There are a number of causes behind inflammation of sinuses. Following are some of them:
  • Bacterial, fungal or viral infections are among the leading causes of sinus infections.
  • In some cases, the openings to the sinus cavities may be blocked with abnormal growths like tumor or nasal polyps.
  • Even deviated septum is found to be a cause for a sinus infection. This may also lead to inflammation of the passage and sometimes infection.
  • Cocaine and other illegal drugs that are snorted through the nasal passages can also cause irritation of the cavities and cause sinus infection.
  • It may also happen that the cilia (small hair in the nasal passages and sinus cavities) that help to move mucus out of the nasal area, can get damaged by smoke, lack of humidity or other causes. When this happens, the mucus stagnates and becomes a perfect location for bacteria to multiply and cause an infection.
Sinus treatment is mainly aimed at reducing the inflammation of the sinus cavity, treating the infection and maintaining proper sinus drainage. This is done with the help of medication like nasal and oral decongestants, antibiotics (for countering infection), antihistamines (for allergies) and steroids (for reducing inflammation). The type and course of medication is determined on the basis of the type of infection and severity of symptoms. Some people may require surgery to remove the blockage and drain the sinus.
Self-care Measures
Apart from the prescribed medication and treatments, certain self-care measure may also prove useful. Some are as follows.
  • Avoid coming in contact with the person suffering from upper respiratory tract infection.
  • Get influenza vaccination to prevent the infection.
  • Drink lots of water and other fluids, especially hot ones like herbal tea to keep yourself hydrated all times. So as to keep the nasal secretion thin.
  • If you are already suffering from nasal congestion, avoid air travel or use a nasal decongestant spray before the flight departure.
  • Avoid allergens like smoke, dust, pollens, or whatever you are allergic to.
  • If you have upper respiratory tract infection then try to avoid excess consumption of dairy products like cheese, milk, ice cream, etc.
  • Dip a clean cloth in warm water and apply it on your face several times a day. This will relieve the sinus pressure.
  • Avoid extreme temperature as it may worsen the symptoms.
  • Take steam 2-3 times a day it will relieve the congestion.

In some rare cases of chronic sinusitis, the infection may extend to the brain and affect the organ, eventually leading to death. However, as was stated earlier, this is a rare occurrence and does not happen frequently. Even recurrent sinus infection needs to be checked, so as to determine the underlying cause. Sinusitis is not a life-threatening disease. But, it is always better to seek medical attention, if you experience sinus infection symptoms.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.