Sinusitis Patient Education Guide Overview

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 causes the pain of acute sinusitis and can allow for bacteria to multiply in the sinuses. Some people have growths called polyps in their sinuses that block the sinus passages and cause chronic or recurrent sinusitis (called 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 4 weeks
  • Sub-acute – lasts 4 to 12 weeks
  • Chronic – lasts more than 12 weeks and can continue for months or years
  • Recurrent – several attacks per year

The symptoms of sinusitis may include:

  • Pain or pressure in the forehead, cheeks, nose, and between the eyes
  • Headache
  • Toothache-like pain along the upper jaw
  • Fever
  • 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.
 

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