Sinus Infection (Sinusitis)

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Quick GuideSinus Infection (Sinusitis) Symptoms & Treatment

Sinus Infection (Sinusitis) Symptoms & Treatment

What causes sinus infections or sinusitis?

Sinus infections or sinusitis may be caused by anything that interferes with airflow into the sinuses and the drainage of mucus out of the sinuses. The sinus openings (ostea) may be blocked by swelling of the tissue lining and adjacent nasal passage tissue, for example with

Other causes of sinus infections or sinusitis

Tumors or growths also can block the sinuses if they are near the sinus openings.

Dehydration, disease, drying medications, and lack of sufficient humidity can cause sinusitis or sinus infection.The drainage of mucous from the sinuses can also be impaired by thickening of the mucous secretions, by decrease in hydration (water content) of the mucous brought on by disease (for example, cystic fibrosis), drying medications (antihistamines), and lack of sufficient humidity in the air. The epithelial cells have small hair-like fibers, called cilia, which move back and forth to help the mucus move out of the sinuses. These small cilia may be damaged by many irritants, especially smoke. This can prevent them from assisting the mucus in draining from the sinuses, and thus results in sinus infections or sinusitis.

Stagnated mucus provides an environment for bacteria, viruses and in some circumstances, (for example, AIDS or immunodepressed persons) fungus, to grow within the sinus cavities. In addition, the microbes themselves can initiate and exacerbate sinus blockage. The most commonly infected sinuses are the maxillary and ethmoid sinuses.

Rarely, immunodepressed or victims of multiple traumas in disasters such as tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, or tornadoes may breathe in fungi from the soil or water. Eventually, in a few days to over a week, the fungi can grow and cut off blood supply to almost any type of tissue, especially in the nose and eyes. These infections, although rare, are serious and can be deadly and require immediate medical and surgical care. Although the fungal infection may resemble common bacterial sinusitis initially, it is a disease termed zygomycosis or mucormycosis.

Reviewed on 5/18/2016
References
REFERENCES:

US Federal Drug Administration. "Is Rinsing Your Sinuses Safe?"
<http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm316375.htm>

Brook, I. MD. "Acute Sinusitis." Medscape. Jul 29, 2015.
<http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/232670-overview>

Brook, I. MD. "Chronic Sinusitis." Medscape. July 19, 2015.
<http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/232791-overview>

NeilMed Pharmaceuticals, Inc. NeilMed Sinusrinse Video.
<http://www.neilmed.com/usa/video.php>

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