What Is Sinusitis? Everything You Need To Know About A Sinus Infection

What is sinusitis? How to treat a sinus infection?


Sinusitis (or sinus infection) is the swelling or inflammation of the sinus lining. When the sinus cavities swell and the openings are blocked, they fill with fluid which can allow germs to grow and cause an infection. Chronic sinusitis occurs when this swelling, inflammation and blockage lasts longer than three months. Most of the tiny sinus openings (or ostia), are located deep in the middle nose which makes targeted delivery of cleansing saline and medications very important for effective treatment.



infographic overview sinusitis United States economic impact statistics sinus infection


  • Sinus infections are a major health concern worldwide, affecting between roughly 8 and 13 percent of people across the globe. [*]
  • In the United States, sinusitis impacts more than 30 million Americans, who spend more than $1 billion each year on over-the-counter medications and treatments. [*]
  • More than 15 million Americans visit the doctor each year because of sinus infections and they spend more than $150 million on prescription medications annually. [*]
  • Each year in America, up to 73 million days of decreased activity are reported as a result of sinusitis. [*]
  • Sinusitis has a socioeconomic impact of about $5.8b in America annually.
  • Sinus infections are more common in people who suffer from allergies, asthma, or other issues that can cause blockages in the nose or sinuses.
  • People with compromised immune systems are at a greater risk for developing sinus infections. [*]

What Causes A Sinus Infection?

Sinusitis can be caused by several factors, including:

  • the common cold

  • particulate buildup, such as allergens and dust

  • nasal anatomy complexities, such as nasal polyps or deviated septum

What Are The Symptoms Of A Sinus Infection?

Symptoms of a sinus infection may include:

  • stuffy, congested nose

  • difficulty breathing through your nose

  • discolored discharge from your nose

  • post-nasal drip (mucus running down your throat)

  • anosmia (reduced or no sense of smell or taste)

  • swelling and tenderness around your eyes

Who Is At Risk For A Sinus Infection?

Sinus infections are not uncommon, affecting more than 30 million Americans each year. However, people with certain underlying medical conditions may experience more frequent and severe cases of sinusitis.

  • Sinus infections often occur as a result of complications with seasonal allergies, asthma, or other issues that can cause blockages in the nose or sinuses. People with these conditions are more likely to develop chronic sinusitis.

  • Sinus infections also occur as a result of viral infections, such as the cold or flu. Therefore, people with weakened or compromised immune systems can be at a greater risk for developing acute sinusitis.



sinus infection duration type of sinusitis acute subacute chronic


How Long Does A Sinus Infection Last?

The duration of a sinus infection primarily depends on whether the cause is viral or bacterial, with viral infections usually showing improvement within 10 days and bacterial infections lasting longer. Sinusitis is typically separated into 3 categories based on how long the infection lasts. [*]

  1. Acute sinusitis - typically lasts 10 days, although symptoms may continue up to 3 or 4 weeks. This type of sinus infection is commonly caused by a viral infection, but can also be the result of environmental and/or bacterial conditions.

  2. Subacute sinusitis - is marked by symptoms that persist anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks, and commonly results from bacterial infections or seasonal allergies. [*]

  3. Chronic sinusitis - (or chronic rhinosinusitis) lasts 12 weeks or longer. Before developing chronic sinusitis, you will likely have a number of acute sinusitis episodes.

How Do You Treat A Sinus Infection?

Treatments for sinusitis may include:

  • Nasal washing or irrigation with saline, a natural nasal safe decongestant, or using a common over the counter nasal safe medicine can be effective in treating acute sinusitis.

  • Speaking to your doctor about using a corticosteroid, antibiotic, or antifungal medicine delivered intranasally (in the nose).

  • Using compounding pharmacies to compound a sinus medication specifically for your needs, incorporating soothing ingredients to eliminate dry nose.

  • Regardless of your treatment choice, delivery to the location of the irritation or infection matters.



sinusitis see a doctor sinus infection symptoms treatment duration


When To See A Doctor For A Sinus Infection?

Consult a physician if you experience any of the following:

  • See your doctor if there is no improvement after 48 to 72 hours as this could indicate a more serious problem.

  • See your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following: fever, severe headache, confusion, stiff neck, changes in your vision, and/or swelling around the eyes or forehead, as these could be signs of a more serious infection.

  • Remember to record and report your symptoms and their duration to assist your doctor in creating your care plan.

Are Sinus Infections Contagious?

No. Sinus infections by themselves are not contagious. However, sinus infections are often the result of viruses such as the cold or flu. These viruses can spread from person to person and are commonly accompanied by a sinus infection. In other cases, sinus infections are the result of airborne bacteria, fungi, and allergens. These types of sinus infections are not contagious.

How Do You Prevent A Sinus Infection?

To prevent a sinus infection, try the following:

  • rinse and moisturize your nasal passages daily

  • wash your hands frequently

  • keep allergy symptoms under control

  • use a humidifier in your home

  • avoid cigarette smoke and polluted air

What Happens If You Let A Sinus Infection Go Untreated?

A sinus infection that is left untreated can not only make life miserable it may develop into chronic sinusitis. If an infection isn’t cared for properly, it could also result in some potentially serious complications. These types of issues are rare but they can occur: [*]

  • Sinus infections, if left untreated, can spread to the eyes, often causing redness, irritation, and/or swelling. In more severe cases, they can even cause reduced, blurry, or complete loss of vision.

  • Severe sinusitis may need to be treated with antibiotics administered through an IV. [*]

  • A CT scan may be required to determine the seriousness of the infection.

  • In very rare cases, brain abscesses or meningitis may result from a severe and untreated sinus infection.[*]


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