Sinusitis is swelling of the sinuses, usually caused by an infection. It's common and usually clears up on its own within 2 to 3 weeks. But medicines can help if it's taking a long time to go away.
What are sinuses?
You have four sinuses in your head, which are pairs of cavities (spaces). They are connected by narrow passages. Your sinuses produce mucus that drains out of your nasal passages. As a result of this drainage, your nose remains clean and free of bacteria, allergens, and other pathogens (germs).
Types of sinusitis
There are different types of sinusitis depending on the duration (acute, subacute, chronic, or recurrent) and the cause (bacteria, virus, or fungus).
Acute, subacute, chronic and recurrent sinusitis
The symptoms of acute sinusitis (nasal congestion, drainage, facial pain/pressure, and diminished sense of smell) last less than four weeks. Viruses like the common cold usually cause it.
Subacute sinusitis symptoms last four to 12 weeks.
Chronic sinusitis symptoms last at least 12 weeks. Bacteria are usually the cause.
Recurrent acute sinusitis symptoms come back four or more times in one year and last less than two weeks each time.
What are the signs and symptoms of sinusitis?
Common symptoms of a sinus infection may include the following:
Bad breath (halitosis) or a bad taste in your mouth
Ear pressure or pain.
Facial pressure (around your nose, eyes and forehead). This may get worse when moving your head or bending over.
Postnasal drip (mucus dripping down your throat).
Pressure or pain in your teeth.
Runny nose with thick yellow or green mucus.
How is a sinus infection diagnosed?
Your symptoms and health history are used to diagnose sinusitis by our Ent consultants. Your consultant will examine your ears, nose and throat for swelling, draining, and obstructions. They might use an endoscope (a small, lighted instrument) to look inside your nose.
Specific tests to diagnose sinusitis
Specific tests your consultant may use to diagnose sinus infection include:
Nasal swabs. In some cases, your consultant may use a soft-tipped stick to obtain a sample of nasal fluid from you. They’ll test it for viruses or other germs that might cause your symptoms.
Imaging. In some cases, your consultant may refer you for a computed tomography (CT) scan to better understand what’s happening inside your sinuses.
Allergy testing. If you have chronic sinusitis, your consultant may test you for allergies that could trigger it.
Discover more about treatment for sinusitis in this short film with ENT consultant Tom Mawby.
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