Sinuses are empty cavities within your cheek bones, around your eyes and behind your nose. Their main job is to warm, moisten and filter air in your nasal cavity. If your stuffy nose and cough last longer than one or two weeks, you may have more than a cold. Rhinosinusitis is a swelling of one or more of your nasal sinuses and nasal passages. It is often called sinusitis or a sinus infection. You may experience pressure around your nose – eyes or forehead, a stuffy nose, thick, discolored nasal drainage, bad-tasting post-nasal drip, cough, head congestion, ear fullness or a headache. Symptoms may also include a toothache, tiredness and, occasionally, a fever.
Acute sinusitis refers to sinusitis symptoms that last less than four weeks. Most acute sinusitis starts as a regular cold from the common cold viruses and then becomes a bacterial infection. Chronic sinusitis is when symptoms last three months or longer. The cause of chronic sinusitis is believed to be a combination of swelling and infection. Recurrent sinusitis occurs when three or more acute episodes happen in a year.
Allergic Rhinitis* puts you at risk for developing sinusitis because allergies can cause swelling of the sinuses and nasal mucous linings. This swelling prevents the sinus cavities from draining, and increases your chances of developing secondary bacterial sinusitis. If you test positive for allergies, your allergist can prescribe appropriate medications to control your allergies, possibly reducing your risk of developing an infection. In rare cases, immune problems that harm your ability to fight common infections may present with chronic or recurrent sinusitis. *see Hay Fever
Problems with the structure of your nose – such as narrow drainage passages, tumors or a shifted nasal septum (the bone and cartilage that separate the right from the left nostrils) can also cause sinusitis. Surgery is sometimes needed to correct these problems. Many patients with recurring or chronic sinusitis have more than one factor that puts them at risk of infection. So, an accurate diagnosis is essential.