The Facts About Sinusitis

Your nose is congested and your head aches. Is it a bad cold or a sinus infection? It's often hard to tell the difference, but there are some telltale signs that can help you determine what's causing your symptoms.

What is a Sinus Infection?

When you have a cold that doesn't seem to get better, you could be suffering from sinusitis, which is another name for a sinus infection.

Healthy sinuses contain a thin layer of mucus that traps dust, germs, and other particles and sweeps them down the throat and into the stomach. When this process is occurring smoothly, you won't even notice it. But when your sinuses become inflamed, the mucus becomes trapped and allows bacteria to grow. This can often lead to a sinus infection.

Signs of Sinusitis

A telltale symptom of a sinus infection is pain or pressure in the sinus areas, which are in your cheeks, to the side of your nose and behind it, and behind your eyes and your forehead. This discomfort is often accompanied by ear or teeth pain, extreme tiredness, a cough, and fever. You might also experience thicker discharge from your nose and it could be a greenish or deep yellow color.

Types of Sinusitis

Some sinus problems are caused by "acute sinusitis." This ailment comes on suddenly, usually prompted by a cold that leads to a bacteria infection.

When your sinus problems linger for several months, or comes back frequently, you could have "chronic sinusitis." This can be caused by a combination of infection and inflammation and is often related to allergies and asthma. Other causes of chronic sinusitis include a narrowing of the sinus passages, polyps (growths in the nasal cavity), or a nasal deformity.

What You Can Do About Sinusitis

If you suspect you have a sinus infection, you'll need to see your doctor for a formal diagnosis. Acute sinusitis can often be identified by a physical examination and a description of your symptoms. Chronic sinusitis warrants more thorough diagnostic testing including allergy testing, a CT scan of your sinuses, examining a sample of your nasal lining, and an endoscope to look into your nasal passages and view your sinuses.

How to Treat a Sinus Infection

For acute sinusitis, you'll probably need to take a decongestant and steroid nasal spray to open up your sinus passages, along with an antibiotic to treat the bacterial infection. If you have chronic sinusitis related to allergies, using allergy control medicines and allergy proofing your environment will also be essential.

Some people also find that breathing in warm, moist air can provide temporary relief, as can using a Neti Pot (a small container that allows you to rinse the nasal passages) with salt water.

With proper treatment, you can find relief for your sinus symptoms.




Chen, Ingfei. "When Sinus Problems Won't Go Away." New York Times Online., 12 May 2011. Web. 11 Nov. 2011.

University of Maryland Medical Center., 19 May 2009. Web. 11 Nov. 2011.

"Sinusitis Information (Sinus Infection)." American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. ACAAI, n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2011.

"Sinusitis: Tips to Remember." American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. AAAAI, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2011.