Sinusitis is a common ailment characterised by pain and discomfort due to inflammation and blockage of the nasal passages.

Sinusitis usually results from a viral infection – when there is a secondary bacterial infection, antibiotics are needed.

It manifests either as acute sinusitis, which usually occurs seasonally often preceded by the common cold, or as chronic sinusitis, associated with ongoing symptoms that last longer than 12 weeks.

What are its symptoms?

Those who suffer from either chronic or acute sinusitis will experience some or all of the following sinusitis symptoms:

  • Nasal discharge and blockage caused by mucous
  • If bacterially infected, this mucous will appear green or yellow in colour
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Sore and inflamed throat
  • Sinusitis headaches
  • Aches and pressure in forehead and cheeks that are sometimes confused with toothache
  • Bad breath known as halitosis can often be a symptom of chronic sinusitis
  • A low-grade fever.

How is it diagnosed?

In order to diagnose sinusitis, a doctor must do a series of check-ups including:

  • Taking into account the patient’s medical history
  • Taking the patient’s temperature and pulse
  • Running through a series of questions to establish dental health
  • Checking nasal passages and throat for inflammation and discharge
  • Lightly pressing on cheekbones and forehead where sinuses are located to check sensitivity
  • Listening to lungs to establish patient has no difficulty breathing
  • Checking that there are no swollen glands, or rash
  • In chronic cases, CT scans may be done to establish the extent of obstruction and scar tissue in the nasal passages and sinuses.

What are your treatment options?

A sinusitis cure involves minimal treatment. This is because it has been found that viral infection is self-limiting. A 2011 study reported that the majority of sinus infections clear within 7 to 10 days when left untreated. This approach is often used for cases of sinusitis during pregnancy since medication use is already limited.

Over-the-counter sinusitis medication offers pain and congestion relief for common symptoms. Doctors may prescribe antibiotics and/or corticosteroids in order to reduce risk of bacterial sinusitis.

In chronic cases, a sinusitis operation may be recommended to clear the nasal passages. Two types of sinusitis surgery exist, namely endoscopic surgery, that clears nasal blockages through irrigation of the passages, and open surgery that removes damaged tissue lining the sinuses.

Can it be prevented?

Here are a few ways to help prevent sinus infection:

  • Keep your nasal passages moist and clear by using a saline nasal spray, breathing through a clean and moist cloth placed over nose and mouth, using a humidifier in your environment, or gently inhaling steam.
  • Avoid smoking or exposure to breathing strong chemicals such as chlorine.
  • As sinusitis is often related to allergies, it is important to find ways to avoid exposure to the allergens that might make you susceptible to sinus infection.
  • Use decongestants during air travel to reduce sinus pain.
The accuracy of this information was checked and approved by physician Dr Thomas Blake in May 2015