Sinusitis: Types, Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Are you experiencing typical cold symptoms—such as a runny nose, a sore throat, and a cough—accompanied by facial pain and pressure? Is your mucus thicker than normal, and does it have a green or yellow tint? Do you have a bad taste in your mouth, or have other people complained that you have bad breath?

These are some of the hallmark symptoms of sinusitis, also known as a sinus infection. But what is sinusitis, exactly? Below, we answer this question and provide a helpful overview of sinusitis types, symptoms, causes, and treatment options. We also discuss where you can turn for medical care in the Tampa Bay area.

What Are Sinuses?

Before explaining what sinusitis is, it may be helpful to discuss sinuses and the purpose they serve. Sinuses are hollow cavities within the skull bones that are connected to the nasal passages. Air flows from the nose into the sinuses, and mucus drains from the sinuses into the nose, helping to filter out dust, allergens, bacteria, viruses, and other harmful particles from the air that’s inhaled.

There are four pairs of sinuses located around the nose (paranasal sinuses):

  • The frontal sinuses, which are found in the lower forehead
  • The ethmoid sinuses, which are located between the eyes
  • The sphenoid sinuses, which are found behind the nose
  • The maxillary sinuses, which are located in the cheekbones (these are the largest sinuses, measuring approximately 1 inch across)

What Is Sinusitis?

Normally, the sinuses are mostly filled with air, with only a thin layer of mucus inside of them. Sinusitis develops when the lining of the sinuses becomes inflamed and swells, causing fluid to build up within the cavities. When this happens, it creates the ideal breeding ground for germs. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI), sinusitis is a “major health problem” that affects approximately 31 million people within the United States.

Types of Sinusitis

There are three main types of sinusitis: acute sinusitis, subacute sinusitis, and chronic sinusitis. The main distinction between the three types is the duration of sinusitis symptoms:

  • Acute sinusitis – Symptoms resolve within four weeks.
  • Subacute sinusitis – Symptoms last between one and three months.
  • Chronic sinusitis – Symptoms last for at least three months.

When a person develops acute sinusitis at least three times within a year, it’s referred to as recurrent sinusitis.

Sinusitis Symptoms

Sinusitis can cause the following symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Facial pain, pressure, or tenderness (some people may experience toothache-like pain)
  • A stuffy or runny nose (many people have thick yellow or green mucus, but the fluid can also be clear)
  • Postnasal drip
  • Reduced sense of smell
  • Sore throat
  • Bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth
  • Cough (this tends to worsen at night)
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • A general feeling of being unwell (malaise)

Notably, acute sinusitis symptoms tend to be more severe than chronic sinusitis symptoms.

Sinusitis Causes

As was noted above, sinusitis is caused by inflammation within the sinuses. This often occurs when someone experiences a cold or allergies, but it could also result from:

  • Structural problems within the nose (for example, a deviated septum, a nasal bone spur, or nasal polyps)
  • A weakened immune system
  • A tooth infection
  • A nose injury
  • Having a foreign object stuck in the nose
  • Swimming and diving
  • Smoking or being exposed to secondhand smoke

Sinusitis Treatment

If you think you might have sinusitis, it’s important to promptly consult with a physician, especially if any of the following is true:

  • Your symptoms are severe.
  • You’ve been experiencing symptoms for at least 10 days without improvement.
  • Your symptoms improved but then worsened.
  • You’ve had a fever for at least three days.
  • You’ve developed sinusitis multiple times within the past year.

Sinusitis treatment will vary depending on what caused the infection. For example, when sinusitis has resulted from a bacterial infection, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics. But if the infection was caused by a virus, then antibiotics wouldn’t be appropriate (and in fact could be harmful). An experienced provider can determine what’s at the root of your sinusitis symptoms and recommend the treatment approach that’s best suited to your specific condition.

In the meantime, the following at-home treatments may help relieve your sinusitis symptoms:

  • Nasal steroid such as Flonase for 1-2 weeks
  • Using a decongestant or saline nasal spray
  • Mucinex can help loosen mucus
  • If not allergic to NSAIDs, Ibuprofen can help alleviate your sinus pressure
  • Drinking plenty of fluids (this can help thin the mucus within your sinuses)

Your Top Choice for Sinusitis Treatment in Tampa Bay

If you’re experiencing the sinusitis symptoms listed above, you can rely on Florida Medical Clinic’s allergy, asthma, and immunology specialists for treatment. We’re a trusted medical practice that’s been treating patients since 1993, and we operate numerous offices throughout the Tampa Bay area, including ones in Land O’ Lakes (at 2100 Via Bella Boulevard), Wiregrass (at 2352 Bruce B. Downs Boulevard), and WaterGrass (at 7760 Curley Road). We know how unpleasant sinusitis symptoms can be, and we’ll work diligently to help you achieve the relief you deserve as quickly as possible.

When you visit Florida Medical Clinic for sinusitis treatment, we’ll begin by asking about your medical history and the symptoms you’ve been experiencing. We’ll want to know how long you’ve been having symptoms, what they involve, and whether they’ve improved or worsened at all over time. After examining you and ordering any necessary tests, we’ll supply you with an accurate diagnosis and a customized treatment plan. Click here to request an appointment with Dr. Reichmuth at one of the locations listed above.

About Dr. Daniel A. Reichmuth, MD, FAAAAI, FACAAI

After graduating with distinction from Purdue University, Dr. Reichmuth earned his medical degree from the Indiana University School of Medicine. He then completed an internal medicine residency and two fellowships—one in allergy and clinical immunology, and another in clinical laboratory immunology—at the University of South Florida. Dr. Reichmuth enjoys spending time with his wife and children, playing tennis, and participating in other outdoor activities.


Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

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