What Causes a Sinus Infection?

The key to treat the sinus is to know what causes it. Sinus infections are very common and may require a close examination before the initiation of the treatment.

Sinuses are the air-filled, bony cavities inside the skull and the face. Sinus infection is also referred to as rhinosinusitis and is characterized by the inflammation of soft tissues which form the lining of the sinus cavity.

Many of you may have encountered a sinus isssue or sinus infection. But what causes sinus infection?  Although everyone's condition is different, there are some common causes listed in the following contents can help you figure out what causes your discomfort, then take some effective actions to deal with it.

What Are the Types of Sinus Infections?

Sinusitis can be classified into 2 varieties: an acute or short term sinusitis that often occurs after catching a cold or experiencing allergic reaction due to environmental pollutants, whereas the second type is chronic or long term sinusitis which stays for more than 3 months.

Acute Sinus Infection

Acute sinus infection or acute sinusitis is a response to acute bacterial rhinosinusitis or infection. The duration of infection is usually less than a month. Sub-acute sinus infection may last up to 1 to 3 months.

Chronic Sinus Infection

This type of infection may last up to 3 months. It can be further categorized into various sub-types, such as allergic fungal sinusitis and chronic sinusitis with or without nasal polyps.

Infected Sinusitis

This variety is usually caused by uncomplicated viral infections. But other pathophysiological events that may contribute to infected sinusitis arebacterial growth and fungal infection. Chronic and sub-acute types of sinusitis occur mostly due to incomplete medical treatment of acute sinus infections.

Noninfectious Sinusitis

Non-infectious variety is the result of exposure to allergens and irritants. The infection may last up to weeks or months leading to subacute, acute and chronic sinusitis.

What Causes Sinus Infections?

Causes of Acute Sinus Infection

Common causes of acute sinus infection are listed below:

  • Bacterial infection:Persistent respiratory tract infection for more than 7-10 days.
  • Viral infection:Perhaps the commonest cause of acute sinusitis is influenza virus or common cold.
  • Fungal infection: Weak immune system and anomalous sinus may increase the risk of fungal infection.

Some health conditions that may increase the risk of developing acute sinusitis include:

Allergies like hay fever, nasal polyps and tumors, abnormalities in nasal passageways, deviated nasal septum, tooth infection, frequent exposure to pollutants like cigarette smoke, complicated cystic fibrosis, immune system disorders and GERD.

Causes of Chronic Sinus Infection

Common causes of chronic sinus infection are listed below:

  • Immune system cells: Eosinophils may lead to inflamed sinuses in the setting of some existing health issues.
  • Allergies: some allergies like hay fever may cause blockage of sinus. Also, some allergic reactions can cause sinuses infections as well as fungal infection.
  • Respiratory tract infections: Often times, common cold can cause inflammation and thickening of the sinus lining which may lead to obstruction to mucus drainage. Ultimately, poor excretion of nasal secretions can lead to bacterial overgrowth. Causative agent may be fungus, bacteria or virus.
  • Medical conditions: Immune system disorders such as HIV, GERD and cystic fibrosis are some common conditions.
  • Trauma to the face: A damaged or fractured facial bone leads to obstructed sinus passageways.
  • Deviated nasal septum: The deviated nasal septum refers to a wall between the nostrils, which limits or even block sinus passages.
  • Nasal polyps: The nasal polyps are issues that can grow to block the sinuses or nasal passages.

What Are the Symptoms of Sinus Infection?

Symptoms of Acute Sinusitis

Primary symptoms include:

  • Congestion and cough
  • Loss of smell
  • Nasal discharge
  • Nasal stiffness
  • Facial pressure or pain

Other symptoms include:

  • Dental pain
  • Fatigue
  • Bad breath
  • Fever

Symptoms of Chronic Sinusitis

Primary symptoms include:

  • Discolored postnasal discharge
  • Fever
  • Pus in the nasal cavity
  • Nasal obstruction
  • Facial fullness or congestion

Other symptoms include:

  • Dental pain
  • Fatigue
  • Bad breath
  • Headaches

How to Treat Sinus Infection

With knowing what causes sinus infection, we can know the proper treatment based on the causes. 

Treatment of Acute Sinusitis

  • Most non-complicated infection may respond fairly well to steam inhalation or a decongestant such as Sudafed.
  • Non-prescription decongestant sprays or nasal drops may also be used to alleviate the symptoms. However, it is recommended not to use these agents for more than 4-5 days due to a potential risk of rebound congestion.
  • Doctor can also recommend an antibiotic course of 10-14 days in severe bacterial sinusitis.

Treatment of Chronic Sinusitis

  • Inhalation of moist warm air minimizes the congestion. Inhaling the steam of boiled water or vaporization also helps.
  • Warm compresses provide relief for the pain in the sinuses and nose.
  • Saline nasal drops may also be used.
  • Non-prescription decongestant sprays or nasal drops are often employed to alleviate the symptoms of chronic sinusitis. However, make sure to use these agents only for the specified period of time.
  • Doctor may prescribe oral steroids or antibiotics in complicated cases.

Home Remedies

  • Adequate rest can accelerate the recovery process.
  • Drink lots of fluids. Fluids like juice and water help in assisting drainage of mucus by diluting it. Avoid alcohol and other beverages.
  • Moisturize the sinus cavity by inhaling the vapors of the lukewarm water.
  • Application of warm compresses to the eyes, cheeks and nose can help in the alleviation of the facial pain.
  • Frequently rinse the nasal passage by using sinus rinse squeeze bottles.
  • Sleeping with the elevated head will assist in drainage of sinuses.

Watch the video below for some extra home remedies to treat chronic sinusitis:

No matter what the sinusitis type is, treatment will certainly help. It is crucial to pinpoint the underlying cause for making the treatment successful. If the sinusitis has resulted from allergies, then decongestants can’t treat it entirely on their own.

If the sinusitis symptom persists for longer than a few days, then consult your doctor right away. Diagnostic tests like MRI, CT scan, X-ray and imaging tests will assist in determining the exact cause. Usually sinusitis is treated effectively when a number of approaches are used in a combination especially the combination of self-care and medications.



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