Sinusitis 101: Definition, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Sinusitis 101: Definition, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

On average, sinusitis affects 31 million Americans every year. This nasal condition can stem from various sources, such as medical disorders and external factors.

If you or your loved one suffers from sinusitis, this guide will help you understand everything you need to know about this condition. It explains the different types, causes, and symptoms of sinusitis, and how to seek diagnosis and treatment from ENT doctors.


Behind your cheekbones and forehead lies four paired cavities connected by narrow channels. These air-filled cavities are your sinuses, which produce thin mucus that regularly drains your nose channels to keep your airways clean and bacteria-free.

Sinusitis occurs when the tissues lining your sinuses get inflamed. This swelling prevents air from entering your sinuses, filling the small cavities with mucus. The buildup of excess fluids in your sinuses can be a breeding ground for bacteria and germs, resulting in painful headaches and pressure around your eyes, cheeks, and forehead.


There are three variations of sinusitis. While they share most symptoms, each one differs in duration.

Acute Sinusitis

An indicator of acute sinusitis is experiencing symptoms of a common cold, such as runny or stuffy nose and facial pain, that lasts over ten days. Within its duration, there will be a short-lived recovery period followed by a return of the symptoms at a more severe capacity.

Recurrent Acute Sinusitis

This type refers to when acute sinusitis reoccurs four or more times within a year. Each instance typically lasts less than two weeks.

Chronic Sinusitis

A condition that lasts for more than 12 weeks falls in the chronic sinusitis category. Symptoms of this variation include nasal congestion, drainage, decreased sense of smell, and facial pain and pressure.

Subacute Sinusitis

Symptoms of subacute sinusitis are akin to the other two types, though fever, fatigue, and bad breath also occur. Its duration period lasts between 4 to 12 weeks.


While a virus or bacteria causes inflammation of the sinuses, certain factors contribute to the condition. The following are some possible causes of sinusitis:

  • Common cold
  • Nasal and seasonal allergies
  • Nasal polyps or growths
  • Deviated septum
  • Weak immune system as a result of an illness or medications
  • Smoking
  • For infants and young children, using pacifiers or drinking from baby bottles while lying down


Signs of sinusitis typically occur after a cold that lasts even after 7 to 10 days. Here are the common symptoms:

  • Facial pressure or throbbing around the eyes, nose, and forehead
  • Headache
  • Pain in the ears or teeth
  • Post nasal drip or mucus moving down the back of the throat
  • Thick nasal discharge or stuffy nose
  • Loss of smell 
  • Halitosis or bad breath
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Tiredness
  • Fever


After testing and diagnosis, ENT doctors prescribe medications depending on the type and severity of the sinus infection. For general sinusitis, here are some common forms of treatment:

  • Over-the-counter cold and allergy medications
  • Decongestants
  • Nasal saline irrigation
  • Fluid intake

When there’s no improvement after ten days, you’ll receive more potent medicine for your symptoms. For these cases, physicians prescribe the following:

  • Antibiotics 
  • Oral or topical decongestants
  • Prescription intranasal steroid sprays

Medications for chronic sinusitis center around treating allergies. Below are some remedies for long-term sinusitis:

  • Topical antihistamine sprays or oral pills
  • Saline solutions
  • Intranasal steroid sprays
  • Leukotriene receptor antagonists

If you have polyps, fungal infections, or both, none of the treatments above may fix your condition. For these instances, your physician may recommend surgery to correct any structural issues in your sinuses.

Alternative methods can also help ease the pain and pressure associated with symptoms of sinusitis. These treatments include facial massage, acupuncture, and acupressure.


Preventing colds and flu is the most effective approach to ward off sinusitis. Check out these tips to keep sinus infections at bay:

  • Keep your allergies in check by taking your medications and avoiding your allergens as much as possible.
  • Take decongestants in case of an upper respiratory infection.
  • Get vaccinated for influenza every year.
  • Add plenty of fruits and vegetables to your diet to help boost your immune system.
  • Increase your fluid intake.
  • Steer clear of smoke and pollutants.
  • Reduce your stress levels.
  • Always wash your hands.

Your sinuses are essential for everyday life. Having sinusitis hinders your nasal system, and all the resulting symptoms can prevent you from living life at an optimal level.

If you suspect that you’re having symptoms of sinusitis, seek medical help immediately. Call ENT doctors in your area to get proper diagnosis and treatment to restore your sinuses’ function as soon as possible.