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  • Writer's pictureDr. Koralla Raja Meghanadh

Sinusitis/sinus infection symptoms

Updated: May 9

Sinusitis infection mostly starts as a common cold, which should last for seven days, after which symptoms disappear. Still, in people with few underlying conditions (read about sinusitis causes here), it gets transformed into sinusitis. The worsening of common cold symptoms indicates this transition.

Sinus symptoms, sinusitis symptoms, sinus infection symptoms, problems with sinuses, acute sinusitis, chronic sinusitis, sinitus infection

We can list sinusitis infection symptoms as

  1. Running nose

  2. Nose block or stuffy nose

  3. Headaches

  4. Facial pain

  5. i) A feeling that phlegm is oozing out from the back of the nose to the throat. ii) A necessity to clear the throat frequently

  6. Frequent sore throat and pain in the throat

  7. Frequent attacks of cough

Rare sinus infection symptoms shown in eyes

Sometimes a severe infection in the sinuses can affect the eyes due to their proximity.

  1. Redness of the eye

  2. Watering of the eye

Why does a particular symptom of sinusitis occur?

Running nose in sinus infection

When there is a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection in the sinus, the sinuses secrete more fluid than usual. These fluids escape from the nose.

Nose block or stuffy nose due to sinusitis

  1. Secretions due to the sinus infection can make the opposite corresponding walls stick together and block the airway.

  2. Due to repeated infections or a severe infection, there will be swelling of the nose walls. This swelling can reduce the breathing airway.

Sinusitis headaches

In sinusitis, fluid stagnates in the sinuses, which are supposed to be air-filled cavities. As a result, fluid retention can increase beyond the capacity of the sinuses, causing pain or headache. Sometimes, if the sinus opening is blocked, the air in the sinus is absorbed, creating a negative pressure that causes headaches.

Facial pain

There will be pain between, above, and below the eyes and sometimes on top of the head. This pain will be continuous and dull aching pain.

Phlegm in the throat or a necessity to clear the throat frequently

Phlegm moves out from the sinus into the nose, then the back of the nose, and then slips into the throat. Most of it goes into the stomach through the food pipe. However, a part of it will go into the voice box, giving the urge to clear the throat while talking.

Frequent sore throat and pain in the throat

Fluids secreted in infected sinuses can have toxins, bacteria, and viruses. In addition, this fluid travels through the throat and can end up infecting the throat.

Frequent attacks of cough

Due to the fluid released from the sinus, our throat can be irritated, causing cough.

A conflict in nasal allergy and sinus symptoms

We will have almost the same symptoms for nasal allergy and sinusitis. So one way to differentiate is allergy testing and CT scan. Another way is to give allergy medication if it is a simple allergy. Then, if we get an excellent response within 4 to 5 days with the allergy medication, we can quickly rule out sinusitis.

Sinus infections symptoms and their behavior in particular stages

We must understand that we will find two to four sinus infection symptoms in acute sinusitis. However, you will see only one or two sinus infection symptoms in chronic sinusitis. In chronic sinusitis, the infection is present for a long time, and there will be some balance between disease and body, decreasing the number of complaints. This balance comes in as the body adapts to the infection and learns how to control it. So, the complaints will decrease in the transition between acute and chronic sinusitis. In chronic cases, the patient might have only one complaint: phlegm from the back of the nose to the throat and must clear their throat regularly or just nose block. When we talk to such patients, they will agree that they had multiple symptoms at one phase of the disease, indicating acute sinusitis. The number of symptoms gradually settled down to one or two. However, all chronic cases will have some acute exacerbation, i.e., when there is a disturbance in the balance between disease and body, chronic will become acute. There will be a high infection in the sinus, and we will have more and more complaints. Again, after medication or an increase in immunity, the disease will return to a chronic form called “acute on chronic sinusitis.”

To understand how sinus infections occur, read the "Problems with Sinuses" part of the "What is sinus?" article in detail.

What are the symptoms of a fungal sinus infection?

The symptoms of the fungal sinus infection depend on the type of fungal sinusitis. There are three types of fungal infections in sinusitis.

1. Non-invasive fungal sinusitis symptoms

  • Runny nose

  • Nose block

  • Headache

  • Facial pain

  • Phlegm oozes from the nose to the back of the throat, thus a need to clear the throat.

  • Sore throat

  • Frequent attacks of cough

Non-invasive fungal sinus infection has two subtypes

  1. Allergic fungal rhinosinusitis

  2. Fungal ball

Non-invasive fungal sinusitis symptoms are the same as bacterial sinus infections. However, the signs are not severe and cannot be identified easily. In most cases, even if the symptoms exist, it is most likely due to bacterial sinus infections that could exist in other sinuses.

In allergic fungal rhinosinusitis, rather than the symptoms, our body gives an allergic reaction to the fungus that will help us notice the infection.

Sometimes, patients get a CT scan for unrelated reasons, and a fungal ball is discovered in their sinuses without them even noticing one single symptom.

2. Invasive fungal sinus infection symptoms

  • Pain and/or swelling in the eye, nose, teeth, or cheek

  • Vision disturbances – double vision or diminishing vision

  • Loosening of the teeth when the infection spreads to the jaw bone

  • Loss of sensation in the cheek

  • Swelling of the face if it spreads to the skin – a rare condition

  • When it spreads to the brain, the body part controlled by that part of a particular brain area will be affected.

3. Fulminant Sinusitis Symptoms

In the initial stages, symptoms are

  • Nose block

  • Severe nose pain

  • Severe tooth pain

  • Severe eye pain

Later the symptoms are

  • nasal discharge

  • Double vision

  • Deterioration of eyesight

  • Swelling of the eye, nose, or cheek

  • Watering of the eye

  • redness of the eye

If you closely observe, invasive and fulminant have similar symptoms, but the timeline of symptoms makes it easy for a doctor to differentiate them. Fulminant invasive fungal sinusitis can reach the brain within weeks and kill a person, whereas invasive spreads slowly and will take years to kill a person.

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Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Does sinusitis affect the eyes?

Yes, sinusitis can affect the eyes.

As mentioned above, rare symptoms of sinusitis include watery eyes and red eyes.

Apart from these symptoms, acute sinusitis and "acute on chronic" sinusitis can result in rare complications with the eyes called orbital cellulitis and orbital abscess.

This complication can result in

  • pain in the eye

  • swelling in the eye

  • loss of vision

  • restriction in eye movement

  • damage of the optic nerve

To know more about complications, you can read our article.

How will I know if I have sinusitis?

If you suspect you have sinusitis, look out for key symptoms such as a runny nose, facial pain, headaches, nasal congestion, thick mucus discharge, cough, sore throat, and the frequent need to clear your throat. If you experience one or more of these symptoms, it's recommended to consult a healthcare provider for a definitive diagnosis. A nasal endoscope is often used to confirm the condition. Always seek medical advice for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

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