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Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinuses. The sinuses are air-filled spaces in the bones of the skull and face. They help to produce mucus, which keeps the nose moist and traps dust and other allergens.

Types of Sinusitis

Sinusitis, or inflammation of the sinuses, can be categorized into several types based on its duration and cause. Here are the main types of sinusitis:

Acute Sinusitis

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  • Duration. Lasts less than 4 weeks.

  • Cause. Often follows a cold or respiratory infection, triggered by viral or bacterial pathogens.

  • Symptoms. Facial pain, nasal congestion, thick yellow or green nasal discharge, headache, and fever.

Subacute Sinusitis

  • Duration. Lasts between 4 weeks and 12 weeks.

  • Cause. May be a prolonged acute sinusitis or result from ongoing inflammation.

  • Symptoms. Similar to acute sinusitis but persisting for a longer duration.

Chronic Sinusitis

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  • Duration: Lasts for 12 weeks or more.

  • Cause: Typically involves ongoing inflammation, often related to structural issues, allergies, or other underlying conditions.

  • Symptoms: Prolonged nasal congestion, postnasal drip, facial pressure, loss of smell or taste, and fatigue.

Recurrent Sinusitis

  • Characteristics: Occurs multiple times within a year.

  • Cause: Can be due to various factors, including allergies, anatomical abnormalities, or a weakened immune system.

  • Symptoms: Repeated episodes of sinusitis with acute or chronic features.

Allergic Fungal Sinusitis

  • Cause: An allergic reaction to airborne fungi.

  • Symptoms: Chronic sinusitis with nasal polyps, thick mucus, and often severe allergies.

Fungal Sinusitis

  • Cause: Caused by fungal infections in the sinuses.

  • Types: Includes invasive fungal sinusitis (common in immunocompromised individuals) and non-invasive fungal sinusitis.

  • Symptoms: Vary depending on the type of fungal sinusitis but may include facial pain, nasal congestion, and fever.


  • Viral Infections. Many cases of acute sinusitis are triggered by viral upper respiratory infections, such as the common cold.

  • Bacterial Infections. Acute sinusitis can also result from bacterial infections, often following a viral infection.

  • Allergies. Allergic reactions to airborne allergens, such as pollen, dust mites, or pet dander, can lead to chronic sinusitis. Read more about allergies here

  • Nasal Polyps. Soft, noncancerous growths in the nasal passages can obstruct sinus drainage and contribute to chronic sinusitis. Read more here.

  • Deviated Septum. A deviated nasal septum, a shift in the wall between the nostrils, can impede sinus drainage and lead to sinusitis. Read more here.

  • Respiratory Irritants. Exposure to environmental irritants like tobacco smoke, pollution, or chemicals can increase the risk of sinusitis.


The symptoms of sinusitis can vary depending on the type and severity but often include:

  • Nasal congestion

  • Facial pain or pressure, often around the eyes, nose, or forehead

  • Thick yellow or green nasal discharge

  • Cough

  • Reduced sense of smell

  • Headache

  • Toothache

  • Fatigue

  • Fever (in acute cases)

Seeking Medical Care

Treatment for sinusitis depends on its cause and duration.


Acute sinusitis caused by a viral infection often resolves on its own with rest and hydration. Over-the-counter medications like decongestants and pain relievers can provide symptom relief. Antibiotics may be prescribed for bacterial infections.


Chronic sinusitis may require a more comprehensive approach, including nasal corticosteroid sprays, saline irrigation (nasal rinses), allergy management, or surgery in cases of severe or recurrent chronic sinusitis.


See a doctor if you have:


  • Severe symptoms, such as severe headache or facial pain.

  • Symptoms that get worse after improving.

  • Symptoms lasting more than 10 days without getting better.

  • Fever longer than 3-4 days.

  • You should also seek medical care if you have had multiple sinus infections in the past year.


This list is not all-inclusive. Please see an ENT doctor for any symptom that is severe or concerning.

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