(Sinus Infection; Acute Sinusitis; Chronic Sinusitis; Rhinosinusitis)
by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
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 to 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.
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:
Medicine may help manage symptoms until the sinusitis passes. Options may include:
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 1 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
Canadian Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Foundation
Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Society of Ontario
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Acute sinusitis in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated September 7, 2017. Accessed September 26, 2017.
Allergic rhinitis, sinusitis, and rhinosinusitis. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed September 29, 2014.
Aring AM, Chan MM. Acute rhinosinusitis in adults. Am Fam Physician. 2011;83(9):1057-1063.
Chronic rhinosinusitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated August 7, 2017. Accessed September 26, 2017.
Okuyemi KS, Tsue TT. Radiologic imaging in the management of sinusitis. Am Fam Physician. 2002;66(10):1882-1886.
Stewart AE, Vaughan WC. Balloon sinuplasty versus surgical management of chronic rhinosinusitis. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2010;10(3):181-187.
12/11/2009 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed...: 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: 7/14/2020
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