Does it feel like someone is pressing down hard on your forehead? Do you feel intense pain and pressure behind your eyes? You could have sinusitis, swollen, inflamed sinuses caused by an infection. Let's talk about sinusitis.
These are your sinuses, the passageways that lie behind your forehead, eyes, and cheeks. They're lined with mucus membranes, which produce the mucus, or snot, that flows freely from your nose when you're sick.
So, what causes sinusitis?
Normally, air moves through your sinuses like this. But if you have a cold, allergies, or a condition that prevents the little hairs in your sinuses from sweeping out mucus, you could end up with too much of the sticky stuff. That extra mucus can block your sinuses, like this. Then, bacteria and other germs can start to grow inside your sinuses, leading to that pain and pressure you feel.
If your symptoms go away within a month, you've got acute, or short-term sinusitis. But if they last three months or longer, you've got chronic sinusitis. That means your pain and pressure will stick with you, unless you get treated.
What are the signs of having sinusitis?
If you've just gotten over a cold or other illness and your forehead and eyes are throbbing with a pressure-like pain, you could have sinusitis. Other signs are tenderness in your face or teeth, fever, tiredness, cough, and a stuffed nose.
Your doctor can often tell whether you have sinusitis by looking in your nose, shining a light against your sinuses, or tapping over the area to look for signs of swelling and infection. If your doctor thinks you may need surgery for your sinusitis, or the diagnosis isn't clear, you could also have an x-ray, CT, or MRI scan.
There's a good chance your infection will go away on its own if you have acute sinusitis. But if it lingers and you're running a high fever or you're in a lot of pain, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
You can manage your sinusitis at home with a few easy tips: Hold a warm, moist washcloth to your face a few times a day; Drink extra water and other fluids to thin out your mucus; Breathe in the steam from a hot shower AND Use a Neti pot or saline nose spray.
After three months if you're still dealing with sinusitis symptoms, your doctor may recommend seeing an ear-nose-and-throat doctor. You might need surgery to drain your clogged sinuses.
Most of the time, sinusitis goes away on its own without any treatment. To prevent your sinuses from getting clogged in the first place, avoid getting colds and other infections. Avoid exposure to allergens or irritants, such as tobacco smoke. Eat a healthy diet filled with antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. Get your annual flu shot and wash your hands throughout the day to avoid germs. When you do get sick, consider decongestant sprays to shrink the linings in your nose and sinuses, and drink plenty of fluids to keep mucus moving along.
Review Date: 2/18/2016
Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.