Sinusitis | Otolaryngology (ENT) | Loyola Medicine

Sinus Infection (Sinusitis)

Overview and Facts about Sinusitis

Sinusitis is inflammation or swelling of your sinuses. Your sinuses are hollow spaces in the bones behind your nose, upper jaw and cheekbones where air circulates when you breathe.

They make mucus, which moves bacteria and other foreign matter out of your sinuses and through your nose.

When your nose is swollen or blocked, mucus can back up into your sinuses and become infected with bacteria.

Doctors classify sinusitis in the following ways:

  • Acute sinusitis, lasting up to four weeks
  • Chronic sinusitis, lasting longer than 12 weeks
  • Recurrent sinusitis, occurring several times in a year
  • Subacute sinusitis, lasting 4 to 12 weeks

Signs and Symptoms of Sinusitis

Classic symptoms of sinusitis include the following:

  • Bad breath
  • Cough
  • Dental pain
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Loss of smell
  • Mucus drainage in the back of your throat
  • Pain or pressure in the area around cheeks, nose and eyebrows
  • Stuffy or runny nose​

Causes and Risk Factors of Sinusitis

The following conditions cause sinus blockages or swelling and can result in sinusitis:

Smoking or being in an environment with smoke in the air also increases your risk for sinusitis.

Tests and Diagnosis of Sinusitis

Your doctor can diagnose sinusitis based on your symptoms and by examining your nose and face. If necessary, he or she may order an imaging test of your sinuses.

Treatment and Care of Sinusitis

Treatment for sinusitis will vary depending on the cause and symptoms. Treatments may include:

  • Antibiotics: you may take antibiotics for 10 to 14 days if you have an infection
  • Antihistamines: these medications help dry mucus secretions
  • Nasal decongestant sprays: these nasal sprays help reduce swelling in your nose and sinuses so that you can breathe better. If you use decongestant nasal sprays for more than three days, your swelling may become worse
  • Oral decongestants: these can help open your nasal passages by reducing swelling in your nose and sinuses
  • Saline nasal sprays and sinus rinses: these products flush out mucus and clear your nasal passages
  • Steroid nasal sprays: these nasal sprays also reduce swelling in your nasal passages, but you can use them longer than decongestant sprays

Other actions you can take to help improve your symptoms are using a vaporizer, increasing your fluid intake and getting plenty of rest.