Sinusitis: What are the various types and symptoms?


Sinusitis is a condition which causes dull to throbbing pain and pressure in your head and face. This is basically caused by inflammation of the sinuses (small air chambers in the facial bones behind the eyebrows, cheeks and jaws). Sinus infection often follows cold.

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What causes sinusitis?

Anything that causes swelling in your sinus or keeps its cilia (hair) from moving mucus can cause sinusitis. This can occur because of the constant allergic cold, infections due to viruses, bacteria and sometimes fungi, changes in air pressure or temperature (seen in people like pilots and flight attendants). Other issues could be due to:

  • Structural problems like deviated nasal septum (the thin bone in the middle of your nose separating the nostrils) or nasal polyps (small fleshy growth inside your nose).
  • Reduced immunity due to conditions like AIDS or certain medications
  • In children, even pacifiers and drinking from a bottle while lying on one's back can lead to sinusitis
  • Extensive tooth infections/root canals/dental surgeries, especially in the upper teeth can cause a breach in the lining of the sinuses and cause infection.
  • Smoking and alcohol also cause irritation of the sinuses, reduce immunity thus causing sinusitis

What are the various types of sinusitis?

  • Acute sinusitis: A sudden onset of cold-like symptoms such as facial pain and runny, stuffy nose that does not go away after 8-10 days. It typically lasts 4 weeks or less. It is usually caused by a bacterial infection in the sinuses that result from an upper respiratory tract infection.
  • Subacute sinusitis: A sinus inflammation lasting 4 to 8 weeks.
  • Chronic sinusitis: A condition characterized by sinus inflammation symptoms lasting 8 weeks or longer. It refers to long-term swelling and inflammation of the sinuses that may be caused by bacteria or a fungus. If someone is allergic to airborne allergens, such as mold, dust, and pollen, which trigger allergic rhinitis, they may develop chronic sinusitis.
  • Recurrent sinusitis: Several attacks within a year. If you have asthma, an allergic disease, you may have frequent episodes of chronic sinusitis.

How do I know I have Sinusitis? What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Acute sinusitis and Chronic Sinusitis?

The classic symptoms ofacute sinusitis in adults usually follow a cold that does not improve, or one that worsens after 5 - 7 days of symptoms. The primary symptoms of acute sinusitis include:

  • Facial pain/pressure
  • Nasal stuffiness
  • Nasal discharge
  • Reduced sense of smell and taste
  • Cough/congestion, often worse at night
  • Sore throat

Additional symptoms may include Fever, Bad breath, Fatigue and Dental pain. Acute sinusitis may be diagnosed when a person has two or more symptoms and/or the presence of thick, green, or yellow nasal discharge.

Read more about causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of sinusitis.

The symptomsof chronic sinusitis are the same as those of acute sinusitis, but tend to be milder and last longer than 12 weeks. People with chronic sinusitis may have the following symptoms:

  • Facial congestion/fullness
  • A nasal obstruction/blockage
  • Pus in the nasal cavity
  • Fever
  • Nasal discharge/discolored postnasal drainage

Additional symptoms of chronic sinusitis may include Headaches, Bad breath, Fatigue and Dental pain.

When should I see a doctor?

Call your doctor if:

  • Your symptoms last longer than 10 - 14 days or you have a cold that gets worse after 7 days
  • You have a severe headache, unrelieved by over-the-counter pain medicine
  • You have a fever

Which doctor should I consult when I have Sinusitis?

You should consult an ENT (Ear Nose Throat) specialist.

For more articles on sinusitis, visit our sinusitis section. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest updates! For daily free health tips, sign up for our newsletter. And to join discussions on health topics of your choice, visit our forum.

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