Acute sinusitis (acute rhinosinusitis) causes the cavities around your nasal passages (sinuses) to become inflamed and swollen. This interferes with drainage and causes mucus to build up.
With acute sinusitis, it may be difficult to breathe through your nose. The area around your eyes and face may feel swollen, and you may have throbbing facial pain or a headache.
Acute sinusitis is most often caused by the common cold. Other triggers include bacteria, allergies and fungal infections. Treatment of acute sinusitis depends on the cause. In most cases, home remedies are all that's needed. However, persistent sinusitis can lead to serious infections and other complications. Sinusitis that lasts more than 12 weeks, or keeps coming back, is called chronic sinusitis.
Acute sinusitis symptoms often include:
Other signs and symptoms can include:
When to see a doctor
Contact your doctor if you have any of the following:
See a doctor immediately if you have signs or symptoms that may indicate a serious infection:
When you have sinusitis, the mucous membranes of your nose, sinuses and throat (upper respiratory tract) become inflamed. Swelling obstructs the sinus openings and prevents mucus from draining normally, causing facial pain and other sinusitis symptoms.
Blocked sinuses create a moist environment that makes it easier for infection to take hold. Sinuses that become infected and can't drain become pus filled, leading to symptoms such as thick, yellow or greenish discharge and other symptoms of infection.
Acute sinusitis can be caused by:
Some health conditions can increase your risk of getting a sinus infection that causes sinusitis, or can increase your risk of getting sinusitis that isn't caused by an underlying infection. These conditions include:
Sinusitis occurs when respiratory tract infections or anatomical problems — such as a deviated nasal septum — block your sinuses, preventing drainage and allowing viruses or bacteria to ...
You may be at increased risk of getting sinusitis if you have:
Acute sinusitis complications include:
Preparing for your appointment
When you see your doctor, you can expect a thorough examination of your sinuses. Your doctor may also examine your eyes, ears, nose and throat. Be prepared to answer detailed questions about your symptoms. Your doctor may want to know:
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of any questions you have before the appointment may help you make the most of your time together. For acute sinusitis, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
Tests and diagnosis
Your doctor may use several methods to help screen for acute sinusitis, such as:
Treatments and drugs
Most cases of acute sinusitis don't need treatment because they are caused by viruses that cause the common cold. Self-care techniques are usually the only treatment needed to speed recovery and ease symptoms.
Treatments to relieve symptoms
Antibiotics used to treat acute sinusitis caused by a bacterial infection include amoxicillin (Amoxil, Trimox, others), doxycycline (Doryx, Monodox, others) or the combination drug trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim, Septra, others). If the infection doesn't go away or if the sinusitis comes back, your doctor may try a different antibiotic.
If your doctor does prescribe antibiotics, it's critical to take the entire course of medication. Generally, this means you'll need to take them for 10 to 14 days — even after your symptoms get better. If you stop taking them early, your symptoms may come back.
Lifestyle and home remedies
These self-help steps can help relieve sinusitis symptoms:
No alternative therapies have been definitively proved to help ease the symptoms of acute sinusitis, but products containing certain combinations of herbs may improve your symptoms. These combination therapies, sold under such brand names as Sinupret and SinuComp, contain a mixture of cowslip, gentian root, elderflower, verbena and sorrel. Possible side effects include stomach upset, diarrhea and allergic skin reactions.
Take these steps to help reduce your risk of getting acute sinusitis:
Last Updated: 2010-10-12
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