Learn About Sinusitis

Learn About Sinusitis

Sinusitis Overview

Sinusitis affects 35 million people each year1, making it one of the most common health problems in the U.S. It is more prevalent than heart disease and asthma and has a greater impact on quality of life than chronic back pain or congestive heart failure.2

When you have acute or chronic sinusitis, the mucous membranes of your nose, sinuses and throat become inflamed, possibly from a pre-existing cold or allergies. Swelling obstructs the sinus openings and prevents normal mucus drainage, causing mucus and pressure to build up. Symptoms include: drainage of a thick, yellow or greenish discharge from the nose or down the back of the throat; nasal obstruction or congestion; tenderness and swelling around the eyes, cheeks, nose and forehead; and/or a reduced sense of smell and taste.


A Look into the Sinuses

The sinuses are hollow spaces in the skull (i.e. the frontal, ethmoid, sphenoid and maxillary). The purpose of the sinuses, which open into the nasal cavity, is to generate mucus to keep the nose from drying out during breathing and to trap unwanted materials so that they do not reach the lungs.

Each sinus has an opening that allows mucus to drain – this drainage is essential to keeping your sinuses working well and you healthy. Anything that obstructs that flow may cause a buildup of mucus and lead to a sinus infection.

Facts About Sinusitis

  • Sinusitis affects approximately 13% of the adult U.S. population.3
  • Sinusitis affects 16% of women and 10% of men each year.3
  • Chronic sinusitis (not including acute sinusitis) results annually in an estimated 18-22 million physician office visits.1
  • Direct healthcare expenditures due to sinusitis costs are well over $8 billion each year.4
  • Total restricted activity days due to sinusitis are over 58 million per year.4
  • At least 20% of chronic sinusitis patients are not successfully treated with medical therapy. When medical management methods are not enough to relieve patients’ symptoms, sinus surgery may be recommended.5,6,7

Sinusitis treatment includes medical and natural therapy, as well as sinus surgery. An Ear, Nose and Throat doctor (ENT doctor) can diagnose acute or chronic sinusitis and determine the best treatment plan.


Sinusitis Symptoms

Is It Allergies, a Cold or Sinusitis?

If you are like many patients, you may have misdiagnosed yourself as having allergies or a cold, when you actually have sinusitis. It’s important to see your primary care doctor or an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor to get a proper diagnosis.

Sinusitis (also called rhinosinusitis) is an inflammation of the sinus lining that prevents normal mucus drainage through the nose. This blockage causes mucus to build up in the sinuses and can lead to very uncomfortable symptoms.

Sinusitis symptoms may include:8

  • Sinus pressure and congestion
  • Sinus headache
  • Facial pain
  • Tenderness and swelling around the eyes, cheeks, nose and forehead
  • Difficulty breathing through the nose
  • Loss of the sense of smell or taste
  • Yellow or green mucus from the nose
  • Teeth pain
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat from nasal discharge
  • Bad breath

After listening to your history of symptoms and conducting an exam, your doctor may diagnose you with acute sinusitis, which is a temporary inflammation of the sinus lining that is caused by a bacterial infection and commonly called a sinus infection. For acute sinusitis, your doctor may recommend saline nasal sprays, antibiotics, nasal steroid sprays, decongestants and over-the-counter pain relievers to help relieve the condition.

Chronic sinusitis lasts at least several weeks and can linger for years. Its cause can be hard to pin down -- and hard to treat.


Sinusitis treatment aims to lessen or eliminate the symptoms caused by inflamed or blocked sinuses. An ENT doctor is qualified to diagnose sinusitis and determine the best sinusitis treatment options for you.

Learn more about sinusitis treatment options used by ENTs.


  1. Benninger, M., et al. “Adult Chronic Rhinosinusitis: Definitions, Diagnosis, Epidemiology, and Pathophysiology.” Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, vol. 129, no. 3_suppl, 2003, pp. 1–32.
  2. Gliklich RE, et al. "The health impact of chronic sinusitis in patients seeking otolaryngologic care". Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, vol. 113, no. 1, Jul 1995, pp. 104-9.
  3. Schiller JR, et al. "Summary Health Statistics for U.S. Adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2010." National Center for Health Statistics, vol. 10, no. 235, 2012.
  4. Ray, Nancy F., et al. “Healthcare Expenditures for Sinusitis in 1996: Contributions of Asthma, Rhinitis, and Other Airway Disorders.” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, vol. 103, no. 3, 1999, pp. 408–414. (Inflation Adjusted as per CPI to 2010 dollars.)
  5. Lal, Devyani, et al. “Efficacy of Targeted Medical Therapy in Chronic Rhinosinusitis, and Predictors of Failure.” American Journal of Rhinology & Allergy, vol. 23, no. 4, Jan. 2009, pp. 396–400.
  6. Subramanian, H., et al. "A retrospective analysis of treatment outcomes and time to relapse after intensive medical treatment for CRS." American Journal of Rhinology, vol. 16, no. 6, 2002, pp. 303-312.
  7. Hessler, Jill L., et al. “Clinical Outcomes of Chronic Rhinosinusitis in Response to Medical Therapy: Results of a Prospective Study.” American Journal of Rhinology, vol. 21, no. 1, Jan. 2007, pp. 10–18.
  8. Sinusitis - Patient Health Information. American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. 2016. http://www.entnet.org/content/sinusitis


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© Acclarent, Inc. 2019. Last Updated 10/11/2019