Key Points about Sinusitis

  • Sinusitis is an infection of the sinuses that results from inflammation of the tissues lining the sinuses.
  • Allergies, smoking tobacco, respiratory infections, having a deviated septum or having nasal polyps can all cause inflammation that leads to a sinus infection.
  • Symptoms of a sinus infection may include a feeling of pain of pressure in the face, a fever, and a runny or stuffy nose.
  • Call your doctor if you experience frequent sinus infections, of if your symptoms do not improve within ten days.


The sinuses are air-filled cavities in the face and head that have several functions, including mucus production. When the tissues that line the sinuses and nasal cavities become inflamed, a sinus infection can result. People who have allergies, who smoke tobacco, or who have had a recent respiratory infection may be at an increased risk of developing sinus inflammation that leads to a sinus infection.

Sinus infections may be accompanied by a feeling of pain of pressure in the face, a fever, and a runny or stuffy nose.

Many sinus infections resolve on their own within a few weeks and can be treated with home remedies. Call your doctor if your symptoms persist past ten days, or if your symptoms return repeatedly after going away.

Sinusitis causes

Sinus infections develop when the tissues that line the sinuses become inflamed or swollen, allowing bacteria or viruses to get trapped and multiply. Sinuses can grow inflamed and swollen from:

  • Respiratory infections such as a cold
  • Nasal polyps, which are tiny growths in the nasal lining
  • A deviated septum
  • Allergic rhinitis, or inflammation of the nasal lining

Sinusitis risk factors

Sinus infections are more likely to develop in people who:

  • Have allergies
  • Smoke tobacco
  • Had a recent respiratory infection
  • Have nasal polyps
  • Have a deviated septum in the nose

Sinusitis symptoms

Sinus infections can be acute or chronic. If your symptoms persist past three months, you may have a chronic sinus infection.

Symptoms of a sinus infection may include:

  • A feeling of pain or pressure in the face
  • A runny or stuffy nose
  • Fever
  • Decreased sense of smell
  • Fatigue
  • Nasal discharge that is not clear in color
  • Bad breath
  • Pain in the teeth
  • Coughing

Sinusitis complications

In rare cases, sinus infections that are left untreated can lead to:

  • Meningitis
  • Abscess on the brain

Sinusitis prevention

You can lower your risk of developing a sinus infection if you:

  • Manage your allergy symptoms
  • Avoid smoking tobacco
  • Avoid respiratory infections by washing your hands often

Sinusitis diagnosis

When diagnosing sinusitis, your doctor will review your symptoms and provide a physical examination.

Sinusitis treatment

To treat a sinus infection, your doctor may recommend:

  • Using a saline nasal wash, or a neti pot to drain your sinuses
  • Taking a decongestant
  • Taking an antihistamine, if allergies contributed to your infection

If your sinus infection is bacterial, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. Your doctor may also prescribe steroids in some situations.

When to seek care

Call your doctor if you have symptoms of a sinus infection that persist past 10 days, or that return repeatedly after going away.

Next Steps

If your sinus infections recur often, your doctor will need to re-assess any underlying cause of your infections, such as a deviated septum or an allergy to something in your environment. Your doctor will provide treatment for these underlying issues accordingly.

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