Sinusitis is an infection of the sinuses that causes inflammation in the tissue lining of the sinuses. These infections can last anywhere from 10 days to 4 weeks (acute), 4 to 8 weeks (subacute), or more than 8 weeks (chronic), and can also occur multiple times within a year. The sinuses are a key part of the respiratory system, and are usually filled with air. When blockage occurs and the sinuses fill with fluid, viruses, bacteria and fungi tend to grow, thus leading to infection.

A sinus infection can be caused by other conditions, including colds and allergies, a deviated septum, nasal bone spur or nasal polyps. Upper respiratory infections and allergies can create an excess amount of mucus and cause blockage, as can medical conditions that cause small hairs in the sinuses to malfunction. Immune deficiency diseases can also result in sinusitis. About 37 million people in the United States acquire a sinus infection at least once a year.



Acute sinusitis is characterized by symptoms of facial pain and pressure, especially around the eyes and nose, nasal congestion, cough, and nasal discharge. Often this also causes a loss of ability to smell. Other symptoms may include fever, fatigue and dental pain. A sinus infection is usually present when a person has two or more symptoms and/or there is thick yellow or green mucus emerging from the nose.

Chronic sinusitis is present when facial congestion, a nasal blockage, fever, colored nasal discharge and pus in the nasal cavity for 8 weeks or more. More symptoms, as mentioned for acute sinusitis, can also occur in people with chronic sinusitis, including bad breath, headache, fatigue and dental pain.

A doctor can test for sinusitis by examining the nose for signs of polyps, tapping over the sinus region to locate infection, and/or shining a light onto the sinus to check for swelling. Ear, nose and throat specialists may be the ideal choice when you have a sinus infection though your primary care provider can also diagnose your symptoms. Doctors may use imaging tests, allergy tests, nasal cultures, a rhinoscopy or blood tests to determine how to treat your illness.



To help treat a sinus infection on your own, you can work on reducing your congestion and opening up the nasal passages. This can be accomplished by applying a warm cloth to your face multiple times throughout the day, drinking lots of fluids to thin the mucus, inhaling steam several times a day, using a humidifier, and trying nasal irrigation with a Neti pot. Taking over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help reduce headache and inflammation. Many of the same natural remedies for influenza can help prevent and treat sinusitis, as sinusitis can sometimes result from having a flu virus.

For acute sinusitis, antibiotics are generally unnecessary as the infection should clear on its own. They may be needed if your symptoms last longer than two weeks, you experience a fever above 102.2℉, you have a headache or facial pain, or the area around your eyes is very swollen. Your symptoms may also be caused by a fungal infection, therefore it is essential to see a doctor to test you and pinpoint exactly what your infection is caused by. Certain people with chronic sinusitis experience fungal infections which may require special medications.


How Health Insurance Can Help

Getting your condition diagnosed and taken care of as soon as possible requires an accurate diagnosis. If you have had a sinus infection previously, you likely know what it feels like and how to diagnose yourself. Even so, consulting a doctor is essential to taking the proper measures for getting well and preventing future infections. Multiple visits may be necessary, as well, so finding a good health insurance plan with enough office visit benefits is a must. Some plans include only a few per year for illnesses such as sinusitis, but the best value – especially for someone with recurring sinusitis – is to get a plan with unlimited visits for a copay. It will make the process of getting well much more smooth, and affordable.

Consider the testing that may need to be done for sinusitis. You can visit a clinic for some tests, but they may not be able to provide a fully thorough examination of all the potential causes for your infection. Without coverage, you would likely be sent to an urgent care center or testing facility, where you could easily spend a minimum of $100 to $200 per visit. When you have a health plan, this is no longer an issue. However, it all depends on your plan. Check your benefits before seeing a doctor to get informed on whether you owe a copay, coinsurance, or a deductible for each type of service you will need.





1. PubMed Health. Sinusitis.

2. WebMD. An Overview of Sinusitis.