What is Sinusitis?
Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinuses. It is often caused by a bacterial (germ) infection, but sometimes viruses and fungi (molds) can cause sinus infections. People with weak immune systems due to illness or medications are more likely to develop bacterial or fungal sinusitis. Some people with allergies can have what is called “allergic fungal sinusitis.” Acute sinus disease lasts anywhere from 3 to 8 weeks. Sinus infections lasting longer than 8 weeks are considered chronic.
Symptoms of Sinusitis
A bad cold is often mistaken for sinusitis or sinus disease. That’s because they tend to share many of the same symptoms, including:
- Facial pain, tenderness or pressure
- Runny nose
- Nasal stuffiness and congestion
- Postnasal drip
- Discolored nasal discharge
If you have a common cold, you can expect your symptoms to improve after about 2 weeks or less. However, if the symptoms are more severe and last longer than 2 weeks, it’s possible you have a sinus infection.
In most cases, sinusitis can be diagnosed by personal history and physical examination. However, if bacterial sinusitis is suspected, nasal swabs for culture and CT scans may be obtained.
Antibiotics are the standard treatments for bacterial sinusitis. Depending on the type of antibiotic, they are usually taken for 3 to 28 days. Because the sinuses are deep-seated in the bones and blood supply is limited, longer treatments may be prescribed for people with severe cases.
Over-the-counter medications can also help provide some relief. These include nasal decongestant sprays, antihistamines, and saline rinses.