What is Sinus Inflammation?

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  • Written By: Madeleine A.
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2019
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Sinus inflammation refers to swelling of the nasal passages. In addition, common causes of sinus inflammation include allergies, bacterial infection, and fungal infection. When treating sinus inflammation, the exact cause needs to be discovered, because treatment differs depending on the cause. For example, when sinus inflammation is thought to be cause by a bacterial infection, antibiotics are generally the treatment of choice.

Sinus inflammation caused by a fungal infection is usually treated with an anti-fungal medication. Although symptoms of a bacterial sinus infection and those associated with fungal infections are similar, fungal infections are sometimes more resistant to treatment. Symptoms of a sinus infection include nasal congestion, nasal discharge, and fever. In addition, severe sinus headache can occur, especially when bending over.

Acute sinusitis is also a common cause of sinus inflammation, and be caused by a variety of different sources. Allergies can contribute to acute and chronic sinusitis, as can an altered immune system and certain medications. For example, antihistamines, medications that are used for a runny nose, can sometimes dry up the sinuses and cause sinus inflammation. In addition, medications known as beta-blockers, which reduce high blood pressure, can also cause nasal dryness and sinus inflammation.


Sometimes, sinus swelling responds to nasal irrigation. This procedure refers to irrigating the sinuses with a saline, or salt, solution, mixed with warm water. The mixture is then poured into each nostril while the head is tilted to one side. As the solution runs out the other sinus, it washes out the sinus cavity, decreasing bacteria. Nasal irrigation, however, can dry out the sinuses and cause nosebleeds. Before using this method, it is recommended to consult with a health care provider first.

When conventional methods of treatment have not been effective in controlling sinus swelling and sinusitis, surgery might be indicated. Surgical procedures to drain the sinuses can often bring relief to swollen sinus membranes, however, the surgery may need to be repeated. In addition, prior to surgery, x-rays of the sinuses need to be taken to determine if the cause of the inflammation is the result of a blockage such as a nasal polyp or other growth in the sinuses.

Simple remedies such as keeping the home well humidified and drinking enough water can sometimes cause a reduction in symptoms. Eating a healthy diet and getting enough exercise can support healthy immune function, which can sometimes prevent sinus infections and allergic reactions. Individuals should talk to their doctors, who can recommend a healthy eating program as well as an appropriate exercise plan.


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