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Sinus infection – symptoms, causes, types and complications

Sinus infection is also known as sinusitis. This is an inflammation or swelling of the tissue lining the sinuses. When our sinuses are healthy, then they are filled with air. But when sinuses become blocked and filled with fluid, then the germs can grow and cause an infection. There are many conditions which can cause sinus blockage such as

  • A deviated septum, which is a shift in the nasal cavity
  • Small growths in the lining of the nose called nasal polyps
  • Allergic rhinitis, which is swelling of the lining of nose
  • Common cold

 Signs and symptoms of sinus infection

Signs and symptoms of sinusitis depend upon the sinuses that are affected and which type of sinus infection has the affected individual.

  1. Acute sinusitis symptoms: Here are symptoms of acute sinusitis:
  • Dizziness
  • Facial swelling
  • Pain or pressure on one or both sides of the face
  • Fever is common
  • Pain or pressure symptoms are worse when coughing or straining
  • Headache in the temple or surrounding or behind the eye
  • Ear pain or earache
  • Pain across the cheekbone, under or around the eye, or around the upper teeth
  • Postnasal drip (mucus drips down the throat behind the nose) often accompanied by a sore throat
  • Nasal congestion with discharge
  1. Chronic sinusitis symptoms: In this type of sinusitis, people can have the same symptoms as in the acute sinusitis but these symptoms can last longer or they can be more severe. People who suffer from chronic sinusitis also can experience:
  • Increased facial discomfort throughout the day with increased cough at night
  • Chronic toothache or increased tooth sensitivity
  • Chronic sore throat and bad breath
  • Pain and pressure in the fact worsens when leaning forward
  • Pain that is worse in the late morning or when wearing glasses

Sinus infection

Sinus infection causes

Below are given causes for acute and chronic sinus infections:

  1. Causes of acute sinus infection: Most often this condition is caused by the common cold which is a viral infection. There are some cases when the bacterial infection develops. [1]
  2. Causes of chronic sinus infection: Here are the most common causes of chronic sinus infection:
  • Allergies such as hay fever: Inflammation which is happening with allergies can block your sinuses. [2]
  • Respiratory tract infections: Infections which are in the respiratory tract, most commonly that is cold, can inflame and thicken your sinus membranes and they can block the mucus drainage. These infections can be fungal, bacterial or viral. [3]
  • Other medical conditions: The complications which are happening of cystic fibrosis, gastroesophageal reflux or HIV and other immune system – related disease can lead to nasal blockage.
  • Deviated nasal septum: A crooked septum, the wall which is between the nostrils, can restrict or block sinus passages. [4]
  • Nasal polyps: These tissue growths can block the nasal passages or sinuses. [5]

Types: Here are types of sinus infection:

  • Recurrent sinusitis, happens several times a year
  • Chronic inflammation, symptoms last 12 weeks or longer
  • Subacute sinus inflammation, usually lasts 4 to 12 weeks
  • Acute sinusitis, usually starts with coldlike symptoms such as a runny, stuffy nose and facial pain. It may start suddenly and last 2 – 4 weeks.

Risk factors: Many people get sinus infection. There are some studies in which are shown that Americans have sinusitis at least once each year. It is more likely to have sinusitis, if you have:

  • Immune system deficiencies or medications that suppress the immune system, [6]
  • Nasal polyps [5]
  • Structural differences that narrows those ducts
  • Blocked drainage ducts
  • Swelling inside the nose like from a common cold [1]

There are many studies in which are shown that the main things which can cause sinusitis for adults are smoking and infections. For children, there are some things which can cause sinusitis such as:

  • Smoke in the environment [7]
  • Bottle drinking while lying on the back
  • Pacifiers
  • Illnesses from other kids at day care or school
  • Allergies [3,4]


  1. Complications of acute sinusitis:
  • Vision problems
  • Partial or complete loss of sense of smell
  • Meningitis
  • Chronic sinusitis
  1. Complications of chronic sinusitis:
  • Vision problems
  • Partial or complete loss of sense of smell
  • Meningitis


[1] Ah-See KW, Evans AS. Sinusitis and its management. BMJ. 2007;334(7589):358–61.

[2] Cvetkovski B, Kritikos V, Yan K, Bosnic-Anticevich S. Tell me about your hay fever: a qualitative investigation of allergic rhinitis management from the perspective of the patient. NPJ Primary Care Respiratory Medicine. 2018;28:3.

[3] Thomas M, Bomar PA. Upper respiratory tract infection. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020. Retrieved from

[4] Arora M, Ali S, Choudhary AK, et al. Correlation between deviated nasal septum and sinusitis: A clinical and histopathological study. International Journal of Scientific Study. 2016;4(1):21-4.

[5] Bachert C, Hormann K, Mosges R, et al. An update on the diagnosis and treatment of sinusitis and nasal polyposis. Allergy. 2003:58:176–91.

[6] London NR, Lane AP. Innate immunity and chronic rhinosinusitis: What we have learned from animal models. Laryngoscope Investigative Otolaryngology. 2016;1(3):49–56.

[7] Sundaresan AS, Hirsch AG, Storm M, et al. Occupational and environmental risk factors for chronic rhinosinusitis: a systematic review. International Forum of Allergy & Rhinology. 2015;5(11):996–1003.

Pardhan Singh
Pardhan Singh
A seasoned natural therapist with degree in Ayurvedic Medicine (BAMS) successful in treating various diseases through Ayurvedic treatments. You can contact Pradhan at [email protected]


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