Sinus Infections

Sinus Infections

In Ear Health, Nose Health by Specialty Physician AssociatesLeave a Comment

Have you ever experienced a sinus infection? If you have, you are definitely not alone. Nearly 35 million people experience a sinus infection at least one time every year. The sinuses are air filled pockets that are behind the eyebrows, cheeks, forehead, and between the ears. These pockets are lined with tissue that produces mucus which is important because it helps get rid of dust and other potentially dangerous elements that can cause sickness. In doing so, it provides protection from pollutants, bacteria, and allergens that can impact health. An infection of the sinuses, also known as sinusitis, occurs when the tissue in the sinuses experience inflammation. This produces a number of symptoms that can be unpleasant and disruptive to daily activities. 

Causes & Types of Sinus Infections

Sinus infections result from an accumulation of fluid in the sinuses. This then prevents the sinuses from filtering the air and removing harmful substances which can cause bacteria to grow. A few common causes of sinus infections are: 

  • Common Cold: you have likely experienced a common cold. This is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract which can be caused by different viruses and is usually unserious clearing up on its own. 
  • Allergic Rhinitis: this is allergies that may be experienced in reaction to pollen, mold, grass, pet dander etc. Allergies occur when the immune system releases various substances like histamine to eliminate an allergen. Many symptoms are produced including inflammation of the sinuses. 
  • Nasal Polyps: these are small growths in the sinuses which can develop as a result of chronic infection, allergies, or immune sensitivities and can impact sinus tissue. 
  • Deviated Septum: the nasal septum is what separates the left and right nostrils. When it is displaced to one side, it is deviated which can restrict airflow through the nasal passageways. 

These conditions can cause the sinuses to swell and experience inflammation which can lead to an infection. There are different degrees and durations of sinus infections: 

  • Acute: shortest lasting type of sinusitis, lasting 2-4 weeks.
  • Subacute: this type lasts 4-12 weeks.
  • Chronic: symptoms last longer than 12 weeks.
  • Recurrent: experiencing a sinus infection several times a year. 

Sinus infections can be uncomfortable and disruptive to deal with. Knowing the symptoms and how to best address these symptoms can provide helpful relief. 

Symptoms & Risk Factors

Sinus infection can produce various symptoms. Common symptoms  including the following:

  • Congestion, runny nose
  • Facial pain and or pressure
  • Nasal discharge
  • Postnasal drip
  • Headache 
  • Cough, sore throat
  • Pressure in the ears
  • Teeth sensitivity or pain

A few factors can increase one’s risk of experiencing a sinus infection. This includes: if you are someone who experiences allergies, if you have immune system disorders, and/or you experience a viral infection. 


There are different treatment options depending on the specifics of the sinus infection. This includes over the counter medications which are typically used for acute sinus infections. This can include decongestants and saline washes. If symptoms are severe or are not easing up after trying over the counter medications, it is important to be evaluated by a doctor. They may prescribe antibiotics to treat infections. 

For chronic sinus infections, which means that symptoms have lasted longer than 12 weeks, your doctor may perform different tests to identify underlying causes. These tests may include: 

  • Nasal endoscopy: an endoscope is a thin flexible tube that has a camera and light attached to it. It is used to examine your nasal passages and sinuses. 
  • Mucus cultures: your doctor may also take mucus cultures so that they can be assessed. This is a helpful way to identify what is causing the infection. 
  • Allergy tests: an allergy test may be used to identify the allergens that may be causing allergic reactions. 

In addition to over the counter medications and being evaluated by a doctor; there are useful ways you can self manage symptoms. This includes: increasing intake of fluids to drain mucus, using steam to alleviate pressure, decongestants or nasal sprays, washing hands often, reducing exposure to allergens etc. These tips can help manage symptoms and provide relief. 

If you experience sinus infections regularly, it is important to be evaluated by a specialist. Contact us today to learn more about sinus infections and to schedule an appointment!

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