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What is an Acute Sinus Infection?

J.M. Willhite
J.M. Willhite

An acute sinus infection adversely impacts the condition and functionality of the sinuses impairing one’s ability to breathe freely through his or her nose. Frequently associated with exposure to certain pathogens, an acute sinus infection can lead to further infection and contribute to complication development, including increasing one’s chances for blood clot formation and stroke, if left untreated. Treatment for this condition usually involves the administration of various medications, including nasal sprays and over-the-counter (OTC) analgesics and decongestants.

Inducing inflammation of the delicate tissues within the sinus cavities, an acute sinus infection is often triggered by exposure to infection of bacterial, fungal, or viral origin. The swelling that occurs in the presence of inflammation generally contributes to sinus blockage, creating an ideal environment for infection to manifest and thrive. Though acute sinus infections are common, certain individuals are frequently considered to possess an increased risk for becoming symptomatic, especially those with existing infection, allergies, or other medical condition that may compromise their immunity.

A sinus infection can cause nausea in some people.
A sinus infection can cause nausea in some people.

A diagnosis of acute sinus infection, also known as acute sinusitis, is usually initially made during a consultation and physical examination. Once a visual examination of the inner nasal cavity is performed, additional testing may be requested. Imaging tests, including a computerized tomography (CT) scan, and an endoscopic examination of the affected area may be conducted to further evaluate the condition of the nasal passages if severe inflammation is present. In some cases, a laboratory test known as a sinus culture may be necessary to establish whether the infection is of bacterial or fungal origin.

Sinus pressure is a symptom of an acute sinus infection.
Sinus pressure is a symptom of an acute sinus infection.

Individuals with acute sinusitis generally experience a variety of signs and symptoms during the course of their illness. The presence of infection often causes the development of thick, discolored mucus that may be expelled when blowing one’s nose or coughing. Some individuals may experience facial discomfort, persistent cough, and ear ache or pain. Additional signs may include moodiness, flu-like symptoms including nausea, fever, and chills, and halitosis. If persistent symptoms are left untreated, complications may develop, including vision impairment, blood clot formation which increases one's chance for stroke, and the spread of infection throughout the body.

A severe sinus infection can lead to an ear infection.
A severe sinus infection can lead to an ear infection.

In most cases, an antibiotic medication is not prescribed to treat an acute sinus infection that is triggered by exposure to a viral pathogen. If triggered by exposure to a fungal pathogen, symptomatic individuals may be given an antifungal medication to rid the fungal presence from their system. Only severe or continual bacterial-induced sinusitis infections may prompt the administration of an antibiotic medication.

Fever may accompany a sinus infection.
Fever may accompany a sinus infection.

Symptomatic individuals are generally instructed to take an OTC pain reliever and decongestant to alleviate discomfort and nasal blockage to allow for easier breathing. Nasal sprays are often utilized to reduce inflammation and promote the flushing of infection and mucus from the affected passages. Additionally, home remedies are often recommended to help alleviate congestion, including the application of a warm compress to the face throughout the course of the day and evening and increasing one's fluid consumption to ease mucus buildup. Individuals may also be instructed to avoid situations that may contribute to sinus pressure and irritation.

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    • A sinus infection can cause nausea in some people.
      By: Adam Gregor
      A sinus infection can cause nausea in some people.
    • Sinus pressure is a symptom of an acute sinus infection.
      By: Sebastian Gauert
      Sinus pressure is a symptom of an acute sinus infection.
    • A severe sinus infection can lead to an ear infection.
      By: Syda Productions
      A severe sinus infection can lead to an ear infection.
    • Fever may accompany a sinus infection.
      By: evgenyatamanenko
      Fever may accompany a sinus infection.
    • Some people with acute sinusitis may experience a persistent cough.
      By: Photographee.eu
      Some people with acute sinusitis may experience a persistent cough.
    • Sneezing is one symptom of an acute sinus infection.
      By: David Stuart
      Sneezing is one symptom of an acute sinus infection.
    • Nasal sprays can be used to help flush the infection from the affected nasal passages.
      By: Ken Hurst
      Nasal sprays can be used to help flush the infection from the affected nasal passages.