Sinus Infection

Overview

A sinus infection – also called sinusitis – is a common inflammation of nasal passages and sinus cavities. The inflammation causes swelling which can be acute, chronic or recurring. A sinus infection is marked by inflamed nasal passages, difficulty breathing, facial swelling, headache, nasal drainage and other cold-like symptoms. In fact, many times sinus infections start with the common cold and develop into a longer-term bacterial infection. Though uncomfortable, sinusitis is usually easily treated.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of sinus infections are the same for acute, chronic or recurring cases. The difference is in how long symptoms remain or how often they recur. Acute sinusitis generally lasts less than six weeks, chronic sinusitis more than twelve weeks and recurring sinusitis is experienced several times yearly. Common symptoms of sinusitis include, sinus mucus drainage. The mucus may be yellow or green. Nasal swelling and mucus secretions can cause obstruction, congestion and tenderness or swelling around the eyes and nose. Those with a sinusitis may have reduced senses of taste and smell, experience headaches, feel fatigue or nausea, sore throat, fever, cough, ear pain or exhibit bad breath as a result of the infection.

A physical exam can diagnose sinus infection. The doctor looks for tenderness in the face, nose or throat and discusses symptoms with the patient. The doctor may look inside the nose with a bright light to see if swelling and irritation are present or if other physical problems like a deviated septum exist. If the sinus infection is accompanied by fever or atypical symptoms, the doctor may perform further testing to ensure it is not a more serious infection such as pneumonia. If sinusitis is chronic, further testing such as nasal endoscopy or MRI may be in order to detect any physical blockages that may be behind the infection. If the infection does not respond to typical treatment or continues to recur, cultures may be taken or an allergy test performed to determine underlying causes.

Causes

Sinus infections can have a number of causes. Allergies are a common cause of sinusitis. The allergic reaction can cause nasal passages to swell, thus triggering sinus infection. Respiratory tract infections – such as colds – also frequently lead to sinusitis. Sinus infections can be caused by a virus, bacteria, fungi or are sometimes the result of physical abnormalities like a deviated septum or nasal polyps. Continue reading for Prevention and Treatment information . . .

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