What is a Sinus Infection? Causes and Symptoms of Sinusitis

What is a sinus infection?

Let me ask you this: have you ever had a cold that seems to last forever? Or maybe a headache above your eyes that hangs around like an unwanted guest?

It’s possible that you may have a sinus infection.

This article will help you learn the signs and symptoms of a sinus infection so you can get the correct treatment right away.

What Are the Sinuses?

The sinuses, which means “pocket” in Latin, are air-filled spaces around your nasal cavity. You have four sets of para-nasal sinuses, starting at your brow and ending on either side of your nose.

What do they do besides get infected and give you headaches?

Well, the medical community is not 100% sure, but some of the hypothesis on the purpose of the sinuses are:Sinuses - what is a sinus infection

  • Temperature regulation around your nose and eyes
  • Humidifying and heating air you breathe in
  • Immune system defense
  • Allows your voice to resonate

Either way, your sinuses are lined with moist tissue that makes and pushes mucus into your nasal cavity through tiny channels.  When those channels are blocked, and the mucus cannot drain, it can cause inflammation and creates a great environment for bacteria to grow.

Causes of Sinus Infection

Anything that blocks the sinuses from draining correctly can be a cause of sinus infection, so things like a cold, the flu, and allergies.

Some people start off having a regular head cold, but instead of getting better, they remain congested for weeks! 

Other people get allergy symptoms during certain times of the year, and all the inflammation blocks the sinuses from draining, and they get an infection!

People who smoke or who are around caustic chemicals are also more likely to have sinus infections. The chemicals irritate the nasal cavity causing inflammation and blockage of fluid.

Sinus Infection Symptoms

Symptoms of sinus infection are typical, but can also be misleading. They look like symptoms of other diseases, or somewhat unrelated:Sinus Infection

  • Pain: the infected fluid instead of your sinuses presses against the delicate walls of your sinus cavity. This can be very painful! You can feel pain around your eyebrows like a headache or under your eyes. It can hurt when you touch them.
  • Discharge: when you blow your nose and you see thick green or yellow discharge, that’s a sign you have an infection. Your sinuses are trying to drain and clean themselves out.
  • Cough and sore throat: surprised? Don’t be! The discharge coming out of your nose is also draining down the back of your throat. It’s called “postnasal drip” and can give you a scratchy throat and cause you to cough. Gross, but true!
  • Congestion: is your spouse complaining about your extra snoring? You may have trouble breathing through your nose due to inflammation.
  • Fatigue: your body goes through a lot when you are fighting a sinus infection. You need rest.

What Are the Sinus Infection Treatments?

There are two main types of sinus infections: acute and chronic.

Acute Sinus Infection

This type of infection usually lasts less than 4 weeks. Sometimes this is caused by a bacterial or viral infection. Luckily, an acute sinus infection often goes away on its own. A physician may prescribe an antibiotic if your symptoms last more than 2 weeks.

Acute treatment includes topical supportive options like saline nose spray, warm heat wraps, and air humidifiers. Physicians will recommend drinking lots of water to keep your sinuses hydrated.

Chronic Sinus Infection

A chronic sinus infection can last anywhere from a few weeks to years. People are more likely to get this kind of infection if they have an obstruction in the nasal passages like nasal polyps.

Chronic infections will sometimes require steroids to help decrease inflammation as well as other supportive care.

But really, the best way to cure a sinus infection is to treat the causes! If your sinusitis is caused by allergies, then treat your allergies and the symptoms will likely improve.

Is It a Cold or Is It a Sinus Infection?

Most of the symptoms are the same if not completely indistinguishable. The best way to tell the difference is time.

A cold usually lasts for a few days, followed by another few days of post-nasal drip. A sinus infection lasts for more than 7 days.

The type of discharge coming from your nose may give you a clue as well.

  • If the mucus is clear and running, you mostly likely have a cold.
  • If it’s thick, green-yellow, and chunky, it is more likely you have a sinus infection.

Luckily, there are measures you can take to avoid getting a full blown sinus infection once you start feeling one creeping up on you!

Most physicians will recommend nasal irrigation, drinking plenty of water, steam, and rest!



What have you done in the past to treat or avoid a sinus infection?


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