Acute Sinusitis generally has short lived symptoms lasting up to four weeks. The acute symptoms vary from person to person. One person may have all of the symptoms while someone else may have only one or two of them. Acute sinusitis is usually painful, while chronic sinusitis is generally more uncomfortable than painful.
Acute sinusitis is usually precipitated by an earlier upper respiratory tract infection, generally of viral origin. Most cases of acute sinusitis start with a common cold, which is caused by a virus. Colds can inflame your sinuses and cause symptoms of sinusitis. Both the cold and the sinus inflammation usually go away without treatment within 2 weeks. If the inflammation produced by the cold leads to a bacterial infection, however, then this infection is what health experts call acute sinusitis.
The inflammation caused by the cold results in swelling of the mucous membranes (linings) of your sinuses, and this can lead to air and mucus becoming trapped behind the narrowed openings of the sinuses. When mucus stays inside your sinuses and is unable to drain into your nose, it can become the source of nutrients (material that gives nourishment) for bacteria. Virally damaged surface tissues are then colonized by bacteria.
Viral sinusitis typically lasts for 7 to 10 days, whereas bacterial sinusitis is more persistent. Approximately 0.5-2% of viral sinusitis extends into bacterial sinusitis.
People who suffer from allergies that affect the nose (like pollen allergy, also called hay fever), as well as people who may have chronic nasal symptoms not caused by allergy, are also prone to develop episodes of acute sinusitis.
The chronic nasal problems cause the nasal membranes to swell, and the sinus passages become blocked in a manner similar to that described above for the common cold. The normally harmless bacteria in the nose and throat can lead to acute sinusitis.
Fungal infections rarely cause acute sinusitis. However, in people whose immune system is not functioning properly, fungus, such as Aspergillu, can cause acute sinusitis.
There are life threatening conditions that can arise from sinusitis. Their instances are very rare. If you have the following conditions and have sinusitis symptoms, consult your physician.
2. AIDS / HIV infection
3. Transplant patients on anti-rejection medications
4. Cystic fibrosis
Treatment Tip: If there is facial or eye pain, the condition is acute, and it is easy to tell which sinus openings are blocked. If blowing the nose does not bring forth enough mucus to clear the sinus, a gentle massaging of the areas of facial pain can sometimes help reduce blockage.
The symptoms of sinusitis are very similar to those of the common cold. Especially with children, the symptoms may mimic a cold, and only a doctor's examination can determine the true cause. If the symptoms do not subside within 10 days, or if there is any fever, a doctor should be consulted. [see side-by-side chart of symptoms]
When to see a doctor
If you have mild symptoms of sinusitis, try self-care. Contact your doctor if you have any of the following:
• Symptoms that don't improve within a few days or symptoms that get worse
• A persistent fever
• A history of recurrent or chronic sinusitis
See a doctor immediately if you have signs or symptoms that may indicate a serious infection:
• Pain or swelling around your eyes
• Swollen forehead
• Severe headache
• Double vision or other vision changes
• Stiff neck
• Shortness of breath
Less common symptoms, which may or may not be accompanied by a stuffy nose, are: