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What is sinusitis? Know its symptoms

General discomfort, headache, facial pressure, nasal congestion… you may have sinusitis, an inflammation of the paranasal sinuses. We tell you everything you need to know

The sinusitis is present when the membrane that covers them paranasal sinuses (air-filled spaces in the skull, behind the forehead, in the bones of the nose, cheeks and eyes) swells or becomes inflamed, causing bothersome symptoms.

To talk about sinusitis, the first thing we need to know is that there are two types: the acute sinusitis and the chronic sinusitis.

EFEsalut has the doctor Isam Alobid, president of the Rhinology, Allergy and Skull Base committee and member of the Spanish Society of Otorhinolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery (SEORL-CCC) to know what this condition consists of, as well as its symptoms and risks.

Acute sinusitis and chronic sinusitis, how do they differ?

Doctor Alobid explains that the acute sinusitis is an infection of the nose and paranasal sinuses caused by viruses or bacteria that lasts more than ten days.

“In most cases, it starts with a common cold that doesn’t heal or that gets worse and ends up evolving into acute bacterial sinusitis,” he says.

Acute sinusitis can last a week or two though never more than three months.

However, if this inflammation of the tissues of the paranasal sinuses lasts more than three monthswe would be talking about chronic sinusitis.

This can be caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi, environmental changes, tobacco, genetic factors, polyps…

Although he points out that “the exact cause of chronic sinusitis is still unknown”.


The specialist points out some of the most common symptoms that are usually present in acute sinusitis are:

  • fever.
  • discomfort.
  • headacheespecially when bending the head.
  • Nasal congestion.
  • Greenish or yellow mucus.
  • Discharge of mucus into the throat.
Sinusitis symptoms risks

As for the signs of chronic sinusitis, he emphasizes two that always manifest themselves:

  • Nasal obstruction or congestion.
  • mucus.

Other symptoms are:

  • Face pressure.
  • Alteration of smell: hyposmia (partial decrease in smell) or anosmia (total loss of smell).

Diagnosis and treatment

Doctor Isam Alobid
Dr. Isam Alobid, president of the Rhinology, Allergy and Skull Base commission. Image provided by COM Salut

The expert clarifies that in the presence of symptoms that last more than a week or that worsen, it is necessary to go to a medical professional.

In this way, to treat acute sinusitis the use of nasal washes i intranasal corticosteroids.

And if with this treatment the patient does not feel an improvement, it will pass to the administration of one general antibiotic.

“In cases where the patient has not improved in the past week, a mucus sample will be taken which will later be analyzed. This will serve to find the right antibiotic that ends the bacteria that causes sinusitis”, he explains.

Treatment for chronic sinusitis is the same as for acute sinusitis, but there is no antibiotic that works in these patients.

“If it doesn’t improve with this treatment, we can administer short bursts of oral corticosteroids, but no more than two a year.”

In some cases, chronic sinusitis can reach disappear.

Possible complications?

Acute sinusitis causes more complications than chronic sinusitis, according to Dr. Alobid.

“Since it is an infection that is close to the eye and the skull, there can be intraorbital or intracranial complications,” he says.

Among the possible complicationsmention:

  • A subperiosteal abscess.
  • Inflammation of the entire eye and loss of vision.
  • Meningitis.
  • Nasal polyposis.
  • mucocele
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