The sinuses are air-filled cavities (hollow spaces) within the facial bones that are connected to the nose. Sinusitis is characterized by inflammation (swelling and irritation) of the lining of the sinuses. When this happens, the tiny hair-like projections that line the sinus cavities can no longer sweep germs, dust and allergens out to be cleared by the body. Instead, these particles become trapped inside.

This causes many of the symptoms of sinusitis (see below). The inflammation is usually caused by allergies and/or infections (bacterial, viral, and rarely fungal). Anatomic defects and immune system problems may also contribute to sinusitis. Acute or new-onset sinusitis lasts for less than 4 weeks while chronic sinusitis lasts for more than 12 weeks.


Common symptoms of sinusitis include:
  • Nasal congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Colored (thick, yellow to green) discharge from the nose
  • Decreased sense of smell
  • Facial pressure or pain
  • Tooth pain
  • Frontal headache
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Bad breath
  • Ear pressure or fullness


Diagnosis depends on history, symptoms, and a thorough physical examination. In some cases a sinus CT scan or nasal rhinoscopy (exam using a long, flexible tube with a camera at the end to thoroughly examine the nasal cavity) may be helpful. Mucous directly obtained from the sinuses can be cultured, as well. For many patients who have a suspected allergic component to their disease, allergy testing would be necessary.


Initial treatment can consist of pain medication, nasal irrigation, and a short course of nasal decongestants. Some patients will benefit from the addition of nasal topical steroids and/or antibiotics. For long term treatment, those patients with allergies may benefit from allergy immunotherapy (allergy shots) and patients with anatomic defects may need surgical correction.

How We Can Help

Your Allergy Partners provider will take a detailed history and perform a thorough physical examination to come up with an effective, practical , and personalized treatment plan. Additional information like allergy testing may be pursued depending on the clinical history. In those patients that have a significant allergic component to their disease, allergy immunotherapy (allergy shots) may be very helpful.

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