Sinusitis is a common inflammation of the paranasal sinuses, the cavities that produce the mucus necessary for the nasal passages to work effectively.
It can be acute or chronic, and it can be caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi, allergies, or even an autoimmune reaction.
Although uncomfortable and painful, sinusitis often goes away without medical intervention. However, if symptoms last more than 7 to 10 days, or if there is a fever or a bad headache, you should see your doctor.
In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that 12.1 percent of adults surveyed in the United States (U.S.) had been diagnosed with sinusitis in the previous 12 months.
- People have four pairs of sinuses, hollow spaces behind the bones of the face
- Allergies, bacteria, or a virus can cause inflammation of the sinuses, or sinusitis.
- It usually goes away without treatment, but sometimes medical attention is needed.
- Chronic sinusitis lasts more than 12 weeks
Here are some key points about sinusitis :
What is sinusitis?
Pain in the nasal passages can be a sign of sinusitis.
A sinus is a hollow space in the body. There are many types of sinus, but sinusitis affects the paranasal sinuses, the spaces behind the face that lead to the nasal cavity.
The paranasal sinuses have the same mucous membrane lining as the nose. They produce a slimy secretion called mucus. This keeps the nasal passages moist and traps dirt particles and germs.
Sinusitis occurs when mucus builds up and the sinuses become inflamed. Doctors often refer to sinusitis as rhinosinusitis, because inflammation of the sinuses nearly always occurs with inflammation of the nose known as rhinitis.
Symptoms vary, depending on the length and severity of the infection.
If the patient has two or more of the following symptoms and thick, green, or yellow nasal discharge, they may be diagnosed with acute sinusitis.
- Facial pain and pressure.
- Blocked nose
- Nasal discharge
- Reduced sense of smell
In more advanced cases, the following symptoms may also be present:
- Halitosis, or Foul-smelling breath
Sinusitis can stem from various factors, but it always results from fluid becoming trapped in the sinuses. This fuels the growth of germs.
Viruses: In adults, 90 percent of cases of sinusitis result from a virus
Bacteria: In adults, 1 case in 10 is caused by bacteria
Pollutants: Chemicals or irritants in the air can trigger a buildup of mucus
Fungi: The sinuses either react to fungi in the air, as in allergic fungal sinusitis (AFS), or they are invaded by fungi, as in chronic indolent sinusitis. This is rare in the U.S.
- Previous respiratory tract infections, such as the common cold
- Nasal polyps, or small growths in the nasal passage that can lead to inflammation.
- Weakened immunity, due, for example, to a health condition or some kinds of treatment
- An allergic reaction to substances such as dust, pollen, and animal hair
- Structural problems in the nose, for example, a deviated septum
- The septum is the bone and cartilage that divides the nose into two nostrils. When this is
- bent to one side, either through injury or growth, it can lead to repeated infections and inflammation.
Sinusitis always involves nasal swelling and a buildup of mucus, but there are different types, and they can last for different lengths of time.
The different types are: Acute sinusitis: This lasts up to 4 weeks and is the most common type. Subacute sinusitis: Symptoms last longer than the normal acute period, for between 4 and 12 weeks. Chronic sinusitis: Symptoms persist, or continually return, after 12 weeks. It may need more invasive treatment, and possibly surgery. Recovery time and treatment depend on the type of sinusitis.
A doctor will carry out a physical examination and ask the patient about their symptoms. This is usually enough to make a diagnosis.
The doctor may visually examine the nasal cavity with a light source, or a small, handheld device with a light attached called an otoscope, which can also be used to examine the ears.
If symptoms persist, a doctor may refer a person with sinusitis to an ear, nose, and throat specialist (ENT) for a more in-depth examination. They may insert an endoscope into the nose, a small, thin, flexible tube with a light and camera attached. This can provide more detailed images.
In cases of persistent or severe sinusitis, a CT scan may be needed.