Acute Sinusitis

SinusitisAcute Sinusitis is an inflammation or swelling of the tissue lining the sinuses. Sinuses normally are filled with air but can become blocked and filled with fluid, resulting in bacterial growth, leading to infection. Conditions that cause sinus blockage include the common cold, allergic rhinitis (swelling of the lining of the nose), nasal polyps (small growths in the lining of the nose), or deviated septum (a shift in the nasal cavity). Allergies also can cause swelling and poor drainage of the sinuses.


Acute sinusitis usually begins suddenly, often after a common cold. Symptoms include:

  • Thick nasal or postnasal drainage
  • Discomfort in the cheeks, forehead or around the eyes
  • Nasal congestion
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Slight fever
  • Loss of smell
  • Bad breath
  • Fatigue
  • Dental pain

Detection and Diagnosis

  • Symptoms lasting less than four weeks
  • Diagnosed when a person has two or more symptoms and/or presence of thick, green, or yellow nasal discharge
  • Examination of face for swelling, redness, and tenderness; physician also may tap teeth to see if a patient has inflamed paranasal sinus
  • Mucus culture
  • Nasal endoscopy: allows physician to view areas of the sinus drainage pathways. It is used to detect nasal polyps hidden from routine nasal examination
  • X-rays
  • Allergy testing
  • CT scan of sinuses

Treatment Options

  • Antibiotics
  • Oral/topical decongestants
  • Drops/sprays: prescription and nonprescription
  • Antihistamine
  • Lifestyle changes: refrain from smoking during treatment for sinus problems. No special diet is required but drinking extra fluids helps to thin secretions.
  • Sinus surgery: Irritation and swelling from an allergy can narrow the opening of the sinus and block mucus movement. If antibiotics and medicines are not effective in opening sinuses, surgery may be necessary. Surgery also may be necessary if there is a structural abnormality such as nasal polyps. Turbinate reduction may be performed to permanently shrink the swollen membranes of the nose.
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