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Overview of sinusitis (sinus infection or inflammation)

Sinuses Sinusitis means an infection or inflammation of the sinuses – tiny spaces located in your cheeks and forehead and around your eyes. When it lasts less than 12 weeks, it's also called acute sinusitis.

It's usually caused by a viral infection and gets better within one or two weeks.

If you get sinusitis that lasts more than 12 weeks, this is called long-term sinusitis. It needs different treatment.

Symptoms of sinusitis

People with sinus infection (acute sinusitis) have a blocked or runny nose, pain in their face and sometimes a headache.

In a more severe bacterial infection you may get:

Causes of sinusitis

A viral infection of the lining of your sinus is the commonest cause of sinusitis. Bacteria (germs) can cause sinus infection though this is much less common.

Allergies can also cause sinus symptoms.

Treating sinusitis

As most sinusitis is not caused by a bacteria, you won't usually need antibiotics.

Things that may help include:

If your symptoms are more severe you may need a course of antibiotics.

If your sinus symptoms don’t improve after three months you may have developed long-term sinusitis which will need different treatment.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed May 2020.


Page reference: 86153

Review key: HISIN-86153