Sinusitis, commonly known as a sinus infection, is a condition in which the lining of your sinuses becomes inflamed, potentially blocking fluid drainage and causing mucus buildup. Acute cases appear no more than three times a year for ten days or less. Some people suffer from a chronic form that recurs more than four times a year with symptoms lasting 20 or more days at a time.
Sinusitis often manifests following the common cold and may be caused by the same viruses. The condition can also be caused by other viruses, bacteria and, in rare cases, fungi. People with allergies or tooth infections may have a higher risk for developing sinus problems.
Sinus Infection Symptoms
When your sinuses are inflamed, you may experience:
• Bad breath
• Loss of smell or taste
• Difficulty breathing through the nose
• Ear pain
• Facial pain and pressure
• Postnasal drainage of yellow or green mucus
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Tooth or mouth pain
The degree to which you experience these symptoms depends on the severity of the infection.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Your doctor generally won’t need to do more than ask a few questions and do a physical examination to diagnose a sinus infection. In some cases, a nasal culture may be taken or a nasal endoscopy performed to determine the exact cause of the condition. Antibiotics are often prescribed to fight bacterial infections. Fungal cases are cleared up with anti-fungal drugs or steroids. Viral sinus conditions can’t be treated with medication but often resolve on their own in about two weeks.
Home treatment to ease the symptoms of swollen sinuses may include:
• Using a humidifier or inhaling steam from boiled water
• Taking over-the-counter pain relievers or decongestants
• Moistening nasal passages with saline sprays
• Applying hot compresses to the face or head
Adequate rest and fluid intake are also important. If these home remedies fail to work, or if you develop symptoms such as pain and swelling around the eyes, severe headache, changes in vision, confusion, shortness of breath or stiff neck, head to your local urgent care center for immediate treatment.