What are the Common Causes of Sinus Swelling?

April S. Kenyon

When the openings of the sinus cavities become blocked, the natural flow of mucus is prevented and the sinuses can become inflamed. This inflammation can lead to sinus pain and pressure, stuffy or runny nose, and fever. Sinus swelling is referred to as sinusitis, and can be categorized into three types: acute, chronic, and recurring. While there are a large number of causes that can lead to sinusitis, the most common include colds, flus, allergies, and sinus infection. Other conditions, such as nasal polyps, tumors, asthma, or a deviated septum, can also contribute to swollen sinuses.

Allergy related post-nasal drip is typically caused by outdoor plants.
Allergy related post-nasal drip is typically caused by outdoor plants.

One of the most common causes of sinus swelling is an infection. Virus, bacteria, or fungi enter into the sinus cavities and irritate the mucus membranes, leading to inflammation and swollen sinuses. Colds and flus can often present viral or bacterial infections that contribute to sinus swelling. Allergens such as pollen, mold, or pet dander can also lead to infection, resulting in swelling of the sinuses.

The most common cause of sinus swelling is an infection.
The most common cause of sinus swelling is an infection.

Medical conditions such as asthma or other respiratory illnesses can also contribute to swelling of the sinuses. Any condition that compromises the immune system increases the likelihood that bacteria and viruses will enter the sinus passages. Other untreated viral and bacterial infections of the upper respiratory system can also lead to sinus swelling.

In addition to swelling, a fever and other flu-like symptoms may signal a sinus infection.
In addition to swelling, a fever and other flu-like symptoms may signal a sinus infection.

Nasal blockages or structural abnormalities can also contribute to swollen sinuses. A deviated septum, nasal polyps, or tumors can all contribute to a blockage of the sinus cavities. This blockage can lead to irritation and swelling. In serious instances, surgery may be required to alleviate symptoms.

Irritants like pet dander can cause sinus swelling.
Irritants like pet dander can cause sinus swelling.

Certain factors can increase the risk of sinus infection and swelling. These include smoking, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, and overuse of nasal decongestant sprays. Activities such as swimming and diving also increase the risk of sinusitis. Other things that may contribute to a greater risk of sinus swelling are pets, allergies, stress, and recurrent colds and flus.

Thick mucus and facial swelling are symptoms of sinus swelling.
Thick mucus and facial swelling are symptoms of sinus swelling.

Symptoms of sinus swelling may include sinus congestion, facial pressure, fever, post nasal drip, and thick mucus. Additionally, individuals suffering from sinus swelling may experience fatigue and other cold or flu-like symptoms. Acute sinusitis may last anywhere from one to four weeks. Chronic sinus swelling differs from acute sinusitis and has a much longer duration period, lasting as long as eight weeks or more. Recurrent sinusitis occurs when an individual suffers from many separate sinus attacks throughout a given year.

The overuse of nasal decongestant sprays can cause the irritation and swelling of sinuses.
The overuse of nasal decongestant sprays can cause the irritation and swelling of sinuses.

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