What is sinusitis?

Sinusitis is swollen, infected linings of the sinuses.  The sinuses are hallow spaces in the bones of your face and skull.  They connect with the nose through small openings.  Like the nose, their linings make mucus.

How does it occur?

Sinusitis occurs when the sinus linings become infected.  The passageways from the sinuses to the nose are very narrow.  Swelling and mucus may block the passageways.  This leads to pressure changes in the sinuses that can be painful.

A number of things can cause swelling and sinusitis.  Most often it’s allergens (things that cause allergies, like pollen and mold) and viruses, such as viruses that cause the common cold.  Whether the cause is allergies or a virus, the sinus linings can swell.  When swelling causes the sinus passageway to swell shut, bacteria, viruses, and even fungus can be trapped in the sinuses and cause a sinus infection.

If your nasal bones have been injured or are deformed, causing partial blockage of the sinus openings, you are more likely to get sinusitis.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms include:

  • feeling of fullness or pressure in your head
  • a headache that is most painful when you first wake up in the morning or when you bend your head down or forward
  • pain above or below your eyes
  • aching in the upper jaw and teeth
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • cough, especially at night
  • fluid drainage down the back of your throat (postnasal drainage)
  • sore throat in the morning or evening

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and will examine you.  You may have an X-ray to look for swelling, fluid, or small benign growths (polyps) in the sinuses.

How is it treated?

Decongestants may help.  They may be nonprescription or prescription.  They are available as liquids, pills, and nose sprays.

Your healthcare provider may prescribe an antibiotic.  In some cases you may need to take decongestants and antibiotics for several weeks.

You may need nonprescription medicine for pain, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

If you have chronic or repeated sinus infections, allergies may be the cause.  Your healthcare provider may prescribe antihistamine tablets or prescription nasal sprays to treat the allergies.



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