Sinusitis is a common condition in which the lining of the sinuses becomes inflamed. It's usually caused by a viral infection and often improves within two or three weeks.

The sinuses are small, air-filled cavities behind your cheekbones and forehead.

The mucus produced by your sinuses usually drains into your nose through small channels. In sinusitis, these channels become blocked because the sinus linings are inflamed (swollen).

Signs and symptoms

Sinusitis usually occurs after an upper RTIs (respiratory tract infections) , such as a cold . If you have apersistent cold and develop the symptoms below, you may have sinusitis.

Symptoms of sinusitisinclude:

  • a green or yellowdischarge from your nose
  • a blocked nose
  • pain and tenderness around your cheeks, eyes or forehead
  • a sinus headache
  • a high temperature (fever) of38C (100.4F) or more
  • toothache
  • a reduced sense of smell
  • bad breath (halitosis)

Children with sinusitis may be irritable, breathe through their mouth, and have difficulty feeding. Their speech may also sound nasal (as though they have a stuffy cold).

The symptomsof sinusitis often clear up within a few weeks (acute sinusitis), although occasionally they can lastthree months or more (chronic sinusitis).

When to see your GP

If your symptoms are mild and getting better, you don't usually need to see your GP and can look after yourself at home.

See your GP if:

  • your symptoms are severe or getting worse
  • your symptoms haven't started to improve after around 7-10 days
  • you experience episodes of sinusitis frequently

Your GP will usually be able to diagnose sinusitis from your symptoms and by examining theinside of your nose.

If you have severe or recurrent sinusitis, they may refer youto an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist for further assessment.

Howsinusitis is treated

Mostpeople with sinusitis will feel better within two or three weeks and can look after themselves at home.

You can help relieve your symptoms by:

  • taking over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen
  • using nasal decongestants these shouldn't be used for more than a week, as this might make things worse
  • holding warm packs to your face
  • regularly cleaning the inside of your nose with a saline solution you can make this at home yourself or usesachets of ingredients bought from a pharmacy

If your symptoms aren't improving or are getting worse, your GP may prescribe antibiotics or corticosteroid spray or drops to see if they help.

If your symptoms don'tget betterafter trying these treatments, you may be referred to an ENT specialist for surgery to improve the drainage of your sinuses.

Only a few cases are caused by bacteria infecting the sinuses.

An infected tooth or fungal infection can also occasionally cause the sinuses to become inflamed.

It's not clear exactly what causes sinusitis to become chronic (long-lasting), but it has been associated with:

  • allergies and related conditions,including allergic rhinitis , asthma and hay fever
  • nasal polyps (growths inside the nose)
  • smoking
  • a weakened immune system

Making sure underlying conditions such as allergies and asthma are well controlled may improve the symptoms of chronic sinusitis.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 4 Jan 2017