How are Sinus Infections Treated?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

There are a number of ways to treat sinus infections, ranging from self-care techniques which can be used at home to surgery for extreme cases. The best choice of treatment varies, depending on the patient, the type of sinus infection, and the duration of the infection. Most people start with home treatment and seek the attention of a doctor if the infection persists, although people with a chronic history of sinus infections may want to consider talking to a doctor about treatment options.

A cross section of the head, including the sinuses.
A cross section of the head, including the sinuses.

The sinuses are air-filled cavities in the skull. When they become inflamed and infected, it can cause pain, congestion, headaches, weariness, and pressure around the face. Sinusitis, as it is more properly known, is usually classified by the sinuses infected. Frontal sinusitis, for example, involves the sinuses directly below the eyes, while maxillary sinusitis presents around the cheeks and jaw. It is usually divided into acute sinusitis, meaning sinusitis of recent onset and brief duration, or chronic sinusitis, cases which have persisted for a year or more.

Sinus infections can cause congestion.
Sinus infections can cause congestion.

Treatment of sinus infections at home is usually focused on promoting drainage. Home treatments must clear the sinus passages so that mucus and other materials can drain. Drinking lots of fluids and taking expectorants can help to thin the mucus in the sinus cavities so that it drains more fully. Inhaling steam, taking decongestants, and using nasal sprays can help to clear the sinuses so that they drain properly. Anti-inflammatory drugs and warm compresses bring down the swelling and pain associated with sinusitis. Some people also find nasal irrigation helpful.

Severe sinus infections can be spotted with radiography.
Severe sinus infections can be spotted with radiography.

If sinusitis persists after a week or so of home treatment, or the pain becomes acute, it can be a sign that a trip to the doctor is in order. A doctor can prescribe antibiotics to kill any bacteria which might be present in the sinuses, along with steroids to address the inflammation. Doctors may also perform nasal irrigation in an attempt to clear out the sinuses.

Swollen lymph nodes can be a sign of infection.
Swollen lymph nodes can be a sign of infection.

Surgery is the next option, if none of these measures are effective. In surgery for sinus infections, the surgeon drains the sinuses and clears away excess material to make the risk of sinus infections in the future less likely. If the patient has a crooked septum, this may also be fixed during surgery to make it easier to breathe. After surgery, patients may still need to take steroids or other drugs to keep the risk of sinus infections down.

Sinuses might be cleaned by inhaling steam.
Sinuses might be cleaned by inhaling steam.
A sinus infection is characterized by pain or pressure around the eyes, cheeks, and forehead.
A sinus infection is characterized by pain or pressure around the eyes, cheeks, and forehead.
Using nasal sprays can help clear sinuses by ensuring they drain properly.
Using nasal sprays can help clear sinuses by ensuring they drain properly.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Readers Also Love

Discuss this Article

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register: