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Sinus Infection

Sinus Infection Overview

Sinus infection, or sinusitis, is an inflammation of the sinuses and nasal passages. A sinus infection can cause a headache or pressure in the eyes, nose, cheek area, or on one side of the head. A person with a sinus infection may also have a cough, sore throat, fever, bad breath, and nasal congestion with thick nasal secretions. Sinusitis is categorized as acute (sudden onset) or chronic (long term, the most common type).

Sinusitis is very common. In 2010 there were 29.8 million adults diagnosed with sinusitis in the United States. In 2007 there were 12.5 million visits to health practitioners for chronic sinusitis alone.

Here is an overview of the anatomy of the sinuses (also called paranasal sinuses). The human skull contains four major pairs of hollow air-filled cavities called sinuses. These are connected to the space between the nostrils and the nasal passage (behind your nose). Sinuses help insulate the skull, reduce its weight, and allow the voice to resonate within it. The four major pairs of sinuses are the:

  1. frontal sinuses (in the forehead),
  2. maxillary sinuses (behind the cheek bones),
  3. ethmoid sinuses (between the eyes), and
  4. sphenoid sinuses (behind the eyes).

The sinuses contain defenses against viruses and bacteria (germs). The sinuses are covered with a mucous layer and cells that contain tiny hairs on their surfaces (cilia). These help trap and propel bacteria and pollutants outward.

Acute sinusitis typically lasts less than eight weeks or occurs no more than three times per year with each episode lasting no longer than 10 days. Medications are generally effective against acute sinusitis. Successful treatment counteracts damage done to the mucous lining of the sinuses and surrounding bone of the skull.

Chronic or recurring sinusitis lasts longer than eight weeks or occurs more than four times per year, with symptoms usually lasting more than 20 days.

Sinus Infection Pictures

Picture of the anatomy of the sinuses
Picture of the anatomy of the sinuses

Picture of the detail of the sinuses
Picture of the detail of the sinuses

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Sinus Infection - Signs and Symptoms

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Sinusitis, Acute »

Sinusitis is characterized by inflammation of the lining of the paranasal sinuses.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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