Sinus infections occur when the air-filled pockets inside the nose and head (your sinuses) become swollen and inflamed. The condition can persist anywhere from a few days to a few months depending on a number of factors.
Common symptoms of sinusitis include:
- Nasal inflammation
- Nasal discharge
- Postnasal drip (drainage in the throat)
- Pain/tenderness around cheeks, eyes, nose and forehead
- Reduced sense of taste/smell
More rarely, symptoms can include:
- Ear pain
- Sore throat
- Bad breath
The length of your sinus infection determines whether it is acute or chronic. Acute sinusitis lasts less than four weeks, but typically resolves in around ten days. Acute sinusitis tends to be associated with an upper respiratory infection and develops at the tail-end of a cold. Patients with acute sinusitis often experience a double worsening of symptoms, where they start to feel better as they recover from their cold, then feel worse again as the sinus infection takes hold. You may also experience a fever with acute sinusitis.
Chronic sinusitis persists 12 weeks or longer and is more often associated with environmental factors like allergies and smoking or anatomical factors like nose/sinus shape. Many experience several episodes of acute sinusitis before developing chronic sinusitis. Fever is much rarer in cases of chronic sinusitis.
There are many possible causes of both acute and chronic sinusitis. These may include:
- Nasal polyps. This type of tissue growth can block the nasal passages and/or sinuses.
- Deviated septum. The septum, which is the wall between the nostrils, can restrict or block the sinus passages if it is crooked/deviated and worsen sinusitis symptoms.
- Respiratory tract infections. Colds and other similar illnesses can inflame and thicken the sinus membranes and block drainage. These infections may be viral, bacterial or fungal.
- Allergies. Hay fever and other types of allergies can block the sinuses and cause inflammation.
When to See a Doctor
It’s time to schedule an appointment with your doctor if:
- You’ve had sinusitis multiple times
- Your sinus infection doesn’t respond to treatment
- You’ve had symptoms for more than 10 days
If you have any of the following symptoms, schedule an appointment immediately, as you could have a serious infection:
- Swelling/redness around eyes
- Severe headache
- Forehead swelling
- Double vision
- Stiff neck
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Hampton Roads ENT.