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Sinusitis

Sinusitis is a condition that affects the sinuses, or openings that connect to your nasal passages. It is generally characterized as inflammation in the sinuses but has many causes such as allergies, reaction to medicines, infections or air changes.

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Our physicians are nationally and internationally recognized experts in sinusitis and its causes. Our team of subspecialists helps develop clinical guidelines for how sinusitis is treated around the world. We use our unique knowledge about sinusitis to deliver care tailored to each of our sinusitis patients. 

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Our Allergy & Sinus experts are global leaders in diagnosing and treating conditions of the nose and sinuses. From pioneering new procedures to helping write national treatment guidelines, our physicians are known around the world for their innovation and research in this subspecialty.

To schedule an appointment, please call the UC Health Allergy & Sinus team at 513-475-8400.

Our Smell, Hearing & Communication Disorders Center brings together subspecialists who are experts in the full spectrum of neurologic disorders of the senses. Knowing that these conditions often have more than one cause, our highly trained teams collaborate to bring you an accurate diagnosis and customize your treatment plan backed by the latest research.

To schedule an appointment, please call the UC Health Smell, Hearing & Communication Disorders Center team at 866-941-8264.

About This Condition

Understanding Sinusitis

What is sinusitis?

Millions of Americans are affected by sinusitis every year. But it's often misdiagnosed and misunderstood by people have it.

Sinusitis affects the sinuses. The sinuses connect to the nasal passages. Sinusitis is swelling (inflammation) in these sinuses. It can be caused by allergies, certain medicines, infection, or changes in the air. Or it can be caused by problems in the sinuses themselves. Short-term (acute) sinusitis lasts less than 4 weeks. It's the most common form of this condition.

Your nose can get stuffy when you have a cold. So it's easy to confuse nasal congestion with rhinosinusitis. Acute rhinosinusitis is inflammation of the nasal passages and sinuses. It lasts longer than a cold and causes some different symptoms. It often begins about 10 days after the start of a cold.

There are four types of sinusitis:

  • Acute. Symptoms last less than 4 weeks and get better with the correct care.

  • Subacute. Does not get better with treatment at first. Symptoms last 4 to 12 weeks.

  • Chronic. Happens with repeated or poorly treated acute infections. Symptoms last 12 weeks or longer.

  • Recurrent. If you have three or more episodes of acute sinusitis in a year, it’s called recurrent.

The sinuses are air-filled pockets (cavities) near the nose passage. The sinuses make mucus. This fluid cleans the bacteria and other particles out of the air you breathe.

What causes sinusitis?

Mucus helps keep your sinuses clean. But mucus may build up in the sinuses because of colds, allergies, or blockages. These things get in the way of the natural drainage of mucus. This may lead to sinusitis. Sinusitis means sinus inflammation and infection.

  • Acute sinusitis comes on suddenly. It often happens right after an upper respiratory infection, such as a cold. Viruses cause most acute sinus infections.

  • Chronic sinusitis is an ongoing swelling of the sinus lining. Doctors don't know what causes chronic sinusitis.

Colds and other infections

A cold or flu may cause your sinus and nasal linings to swell. Sinus openings can become blocked. This causes mucus to back up. This backed-up mucus becomes an ideal place for bacteria to grow. Thick, yellow, or discolored mucus is one sign of infection.

Allergic reactions

You may be sensitive to certain substances. This causes the release of histamine in the body. Histamine makes your sinus and nasal linings swell. Long-term swelling clogs your sinuses. It prevents the tiny hairs (cilia) in the nasal lining from sweeping away mucus. Allergy symptoms can continue over time. But they’re less severe than with colds.

Blockages

  • A polyp is a growth in the nose that arises due to severe inflammation. It can be the result of an allergy or infection. It may block the opening where most of your sinuses drain (middle meatus). It may even grow large enough to block your nose.

  • A deviated septum is when the thin wall inside your nose is pushed to one side. It is often the result of injury. This can block your middle meatus.

People with chronic nasal problems or allergies are more likely to get acute sinusitis. Sinusitis is also more common if you have a weakened immune system, such as with HIV. You are also more likely to get sinusitis if you have cystic fibrosis or another condition that causes your body to make extra mucus.

What are the symptoms of sinusitis?

The symptoms of sinusitis may depend on your age. These are the most common symptoms:

Younger children

  • Nasal blockage, obstruction or congestion.

  • Runny nose that lasts longer than 7 to 10 days. The discharge is often thick green or yellow, but can also be clear.

  • Cough at night.

  • Occasional daytime cough.

  • Swelling around the eyes.

Older children and adults

  • Runny nose or cold symptoms that last longer than 7 to 10 days.

  • Complaints of drip in the throat from the nose.

  • Headaches.

  • Facial pain.

  • Bad breath.

  • Cough.

  • Fever.

  • Sore throat.

The symptoms of sinusitis may look like other conditions or health problems. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is sinusitis diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider can often diagnose sinusitis based on your symptoms and a physical exam. Sometimes other tests are done. These may include:

  • Nasal endoscopy which allows cultures to be taken of pus draining from the sinuses.

  • Sinus CT scan. This imaging test uses X-rays and computer technology to make images of the body.

How is sinusitis treated?

Treatment will depend on your symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.

Treatment of sinusitis may include:

  • Pain relievers.

  • Nose sprays or drops.

  • Antibiotics for severe symptoms such as fever, face pain or tenderness, or swelling around the eyes.  

  • Surgery, if other treatments have failed.

You may be referred to an immunologist, especially for recurrent sinusitis in the setting of recurrent infections in other parts of your body too.

When should I seek emergency care?

Call if any of these occur:

  • Vision changes.

  • Severe or intense facial pain or pressure.

  • High fever.

  • Neck stiffness.

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Swelling or redness around one or both eyes.

  • Trouble thinking.

These symptoms may point to a more serious condition.

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