A sinus infection or sinusitis occurs when the sinuses are inflamed or swollen. The sinuses are air cavities found within the cheekbones, on either side of the bridge of the nose, behind the nose, behind the forehead and behind the eyebrows. Sinusitis is usually caused by a bacterial infection, and less often by viruses or fungi. Other causes can include allergies, tooth infections, nasal polyps, and a deviated septum. There are two types of sinus infections: acute and chronic. Acute infections are short-lived and generally caused by allergies or the common cold. Chronic infections can last for months and often recur.
Pain is one of the first symptoms people experience with a sinus infection, and it is also the most noticeable. There are many sinuses located around the nose and eyes, and they can all cause dull aches or intense sharp pain. When inflammation and swelling take hold, the pressure can also cause a pounding, radiating effect. This symptom may be felt through the forehead, jaw, and teeth, as well.
Sinus infections can cause discharge, which leads to drainage from the nose. This mucus is typically yellow or green. It may also drain down into the throat, causing a postnasal drip that can make the throat itch and lead to a cough when lying down. This mucus can also build up and settle, causing additional complications.
During a sinus infection, the nasal passages can become inflamed, restricting airflow into and out of the nose. Depending on the severity of the infection, the swelling can make it hard to breathe through the nose at all. This type of congestion can also affect the individual's ability to taste foods or talk, leaving their voice hoarse and causing temporary tonal changes.
A pounding headache can accompany a sinus infection. Pressure and swelling can cause severe pain in the head, especially right above the nose and the eyes. This kind of pain can turn into a toothache or earache. Over the night, drainage can collect, leaving people with morning headaches that may improve over the day, or can worsen as temperatures and other conditions fluctuate.
As the sinuses are continually draining during a sinus infection, often the drainage has nowhere to go but down the throat. This can cause the throat to become sore and itchy and trigger a cough that might worsen at night. It is best to try to sleep while propped up against a few pillows, to stop the flow.
When an individual is experiencing postnatal drip during a sinus infection, it is likely that they will eventually also develop a raw and aching throat due to the discharge from the infection. This may also cause hoarseness or voice loss until the infection clears up and the throat has a chance to heal.
One of the symptoms that makes it easy to differentiate between a common cold and a sinus infection is a fever. This particular kind of fever can thrust individuals into moments of intense sweats, followed quickly by cold chills. Wrapping up in a warm blanket and drinking fluids to avoid dehydration can sometimes provide relief until the symptom passes.
Long bouts of fatigue is a common symptom of a sinus infection. The infection itself can cause this, but the other symptoms also intensify it. Being unable to sleep through the night due to coughing or a sore throat will also make this lethargic feeling worse, especially when it persists through the duration of the illness.
During a sinus infection, the individual will more than likely experience postnasal drip. This mucus that accumulates in the back of the throat can contribute to bad breath. A fever can also cause a dry mouth, lips, and tongue, which can also contribute to poor-smelling breath. Once the fever subsides, the congestion dries up, and the infection is treated, the breath should return to normal.
A loss of smell or anosmia is a leading symptom of a sinus infection. When the nasal passages swell up due to inflammation, sense of smell, as well as breathing, becomes difficult. When this occurs, it impacts the person's ability to taste food and drink. This symptom should disappear and the senses return to normal as soon as the infection clears.
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