Sinus Infection: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Sinus infection, commonly referred to as sinusitis, is a serious health issue that inflicts 31 Americans. On average, Americans spend over $1 billion annually on OTC medications to treat the condition. Sinus infection accounts for close to 16 million doctor visits and nearly $ 150 million in prescription medications. Having allergies, structural blockages, and asthma puts you at a greater risk for sinusitis. Having a weak immune system also presents a significant risk. Sinusitis is ideally the inflammation of the sinuses. Whereas healthy sinuses should be filled with air, infected sinuses are filled with fluid and become blocked. This may cause germs to grow and cause serious infections. Sinus blockage is commonly caused by the common cold, a deviated septum, allergic rhinitis, and nasal polyps.

Chronic sinusitis takes place when the inside of the nose and head becomes swollen and inflamed for three months or more despite attempts to obtain treatment. The condition affects how mucus drains and causes the nose to become stuffy. You may experience some difficulty breathing through the nose and cause the area around your eyes to become tender and swollen. An infection can cause sinusitis when there are growths in the sinuses. This condition is commonly referred to as chronic rhinosinusitis and can affect both children and adults. 


Chronic sinusitis may be caused by nasal polyps, which are tissue growths that may block your nasal passages. Deviated or crooked nasal septum may also limit or block nasal passages, thereby worsening the symptoms of sinusitis. Similarly, respiratory tract infections, such as colds, can cause inflammation of the sinus membrane and blockages along mucus drainage. Inflammation with allergies like hay fever can also block the sinuses. Other medical conditions that have been associated with sinusitis include HIV, cystic fibrosis, and immune system-related diseases


Common symptoms include nasal inflammation, postnasal drainage, thick nasal discharge, low sense of taste and smell, swelling and pain around the eyes, nose, forehead, and cheeks, and nasal congestion or obstruction that causes difficulty breathing via the nose. Other symptoms may include bad breath, fatigue, ear pain, sore throat, throat clearing or cough, and aching in the teeth or lower jaw.


Your doctor will examine your nose for tenderness or perform imaging tests using MRI or CT to show details. An allergy test may also be performed to determine what causes your nasal flare-ups. Treatment often includes nasal corticosteroids to treat and prevent inflammation. These include budesonide, fluticasone, triamcinolone, beclomethasone, and mometasone. Saline nasal irrigation and injected or oral corticosteroids may also be used to help relieve inflammation. 

Sometimes, aspirin desensitization treatment is recommended for those who have reactions to aspirin. Larger doses are given under medical supervision to increase tolerance. 

Similarly, antibiotics can be used to treat a bacterial infection, but if allergies are the major cause of your sinusitis, immunotherapy (allergy shots) may be used to reduce your body’s reaction to certain allergens. In rare cases, surgery is considered if a patient seems resistant to medication. If left untreated, a sinus infection in the rear central part of the head may spread into the brain and result in meningitis or similar life-threatening conditions. Other complications that may be caused by untreated sinusitis include brain abscess, bone infection, thrombosis (sinus cavity blood clot) and eye infection. 

Sinusitis is a serious health issue and should be treated as soon as possible before the condition develops into other health complications. A doctor will often carry out an examination and recommend the best treatment plan for you. Therefore, if you have symptoms of sinusitis, see your doctor as soon as possible.