Sinusitis occurs when the lining of your sinuses becomes swollen and irritated. The sinuses are air-filled spaces behind your cheeks, eyes and jaw. This is where the mucus is made that cleans bacteria and other particles out of the air you breathe.
Anything that causes swelling in the nose, such as a cold, allergies, or reaction to a chemical you are sensitive to, can block the openings of the sinuses. This traps air and mucus in the sinuses, which allows bacteria to multiply in the sinuses, and causes pain. Some people have growths called polyps in their sinuses that block the passages and cause chronic or recurrent sinusitis, rhinosinusitis.
In general, sinusitis is divided into two types: acute (short-term) and chronic (longer lasting). However, there are actually four categories of sinusitis.
- Acute: Lasts up to four weeks
- Sub-acute: Lasts for 4-12 weeks
- Chronic: Lasts more than 12 weeks and can continue for months or years
- Recurrent: Several attacks per year
The symptoms of sinusitis include:
- Pain or pressure in the forehead, cheeks, nose and between the eyes
- Toothache-like pain along the upper jaw
- Stuffed up nose
- Reduced sense of smell and taste
- Cough that may be worse at night
- Bad breath
It is estimated that 31 million adults are diagnosed with sinusitis each year, with women affected nearly twice as often as men.