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Sinus Infection (cont.)

When to Seek Medical Care

Call a doctor when experiencing pain or pressure in the upper face accompanied by nasal congestion or discharge, postnasal drip, fever for several days, or ongoing bad breath unrelated to dental problems.

Fever can be a symptom of a sinus infection or a cold. Simple nasal congestion with a low-grade fever and a runny nose probably indicates a cold and may not call for medications or antibiotics and may be contagious. Those also experiencing facial pain, headaches, and fever for several days may have a sinus infection.

If left undiagnosed and untreated complications of sinusitis can occur that may lead to severe medical problems and possibly death. If you have the following symptoms, you may have a medical emergency and should seek immediate evaluation in a hospital's emergency department.

  • Headache, fever, and soft tissue swelling over the frontal sinus may indicate an infection of the frontal bone, called Pott's puffy tumor or osteomyelitis. Usually, this complication is limited to children.
  • Ethmoid sinusitis can cause infection of the eye socket. The eyelid may swell and become droopy. Vision changes are rare but are signs of serious complications. Fever and severe illness are usually present. A person with this infection may lose the ability to move the eye, and permanent blindness may result. Symptoms of sinusitis associated with pain when moving the eye or swelling around the eye are an emergency and should be evaluated immediately.
  • Ethmoid or frontal sinusitis can cause the formation of a blood clot in the sinus area around the front and top of the face. Symptoms may be similar to those of eye socket infection with the addition of a dilated pupil (the pupil is larger than usual). This condition usually affects both sides of the face.
  • If a person experiences personality changes, headache, neck stiffness, high fever, altered consciousness, visual problems, seizures, or rash on the body, infection may have spread to the brain or the lining tissues of the brain (meningitis). This is a severe illness and a medical emergency. Coma and death may follow.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/16/2012

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Sinusitis, Acute »

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

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