Sinus infections, also called sinusitis, begin with the blockage of the tiny tube that leads into the sinuses, the ostium. The blockage may happen because of swelling (colds and allergies often cause this swelling), because of an anatomical obstruction, or even due to the presence of a foreign body. This blockage makes the mucus that would otherwise be naturally eliminated from the sinuses stay in place. It can build up and start to cause a feeling of pressure, pain, headaches, and nasal congestion. It can become infected and lead to fever and other symptoms.
An acute sinus infection is one that typically starts after a cold or allergy attack. It will normally last for no longer than two to three weeks. People who have sinus infections that are lasting more than 12 continuous weeks, are typically diagnosed with chronic sinusitis.
Sinus infections are not always easy to diagnose, especially in their early stages. The doctor will take a comprehensive medical history from the patient so that he or she can look for patterns that may aid in the diagnosis. To definitively make a sinusitis diagnosis, the doctor may examine the inner nose with a flexible camera to get a clear view of the blockage, or order a CT scan of the sinuses.
There are several different approaches to treating sinus infections. Antibiotics are often effective in many patients, but the type of antibiotic used may depend on what other antibiotics have been taken recently. Many patients will also benefit from prescription nasal sprays and other medications. Allergy Shots can help with allergic triggers.