Sinusitis is inflammation of the sinus cavities. The sinus cavities are air-filled spaces in the skull. It is usually associated with infection.
Sinusitis is called acute if it lasts for less than 4 weeks, subacute if it lasts 4-12 weeks, and chronic if symptoms last for more than 3 months. You may have recurrent sinusitis if you have repeated bouts of acute sinusitis.
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Infectious sinusitis is caused by a viral, bacterial, or (rarely) fungal infection of fluid in the sinus cavities. Infections are usually associated with acute sinusitis more than chronic.
Factors that may increase your chance of sinusitis include:
Sinusitis may cause:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Sinusitis is diagnosed based on its symptoms and tenderness of the sinuses when pressed.
Tests may include:
You have may acute sinusitis when the following occurs:
Most sinus infections are caused by a virus and will pass on their own in 7-10 days. Home care and medications can help manage symptoms.
Infections that last longer or keep coming back may need more care.
Secretions can build up in the nasal and sinus passages. This can add to pressure and pain. Secretions can be loosened with:
Medication may help manage symptoms until the sinusitis passes. Options may inlcude:
Antibiotics are only effective for specific sinus infections. If a sinus infection lasts longer than expected or keeps coming back the doctor may suspect a bacterial infection and recommend antibiotics.
Surgery may be recommended if above treatments have not provided relief for very troublesome, serious chronic sinusitis. Options may include one or more of the following:
To help reduce your chance of sinusitis:
American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Allergy Asthma Information Association
Calgary Allergy Network
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Allergic rhinitis, sinusitis, and rhinosinusitis. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at:
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12/11/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T902952/Acute-sinusitis-in-adults : Zalmanovici A, Yaphe J. Intranasal steroids for acute sinusitis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009;(4):CD005149.
Last reviewed September 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Marcie L. Sidman, MD
Last Updated: 9/26/2017