Bacterial Sinusitis

What Is Bacterial Sinusitis?

Bacterial Sinusitis is an infection of the paranasal sinuses, the air-filled cavities around the nasal passages that link to the nose and throat. Bacterial sinusitis occurs when allows air enters the sinuses and is trapped leading to bacterial overgrowth and infection. Symptoms of bacterial sinusitis may vary from mild to severe, and include:

  • Facial pain
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion or blockage
  • Postnasal drainage
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Halitosis (bad breath)
  • Loss of smell
  • Fatigue

Bacterial sinusitis is usually caused by a virus, but can also be caused by bacteria such as Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, Moraxella catarrhalis, and Staphylococcus aureus. While the virus commonly causes the initial infection, the bacteria can become involved as a secondary infection.

Diagnosing Bacterial Sinusitis

Bacterial sinusitis can often be difficult to diagnose as symptoms are similar to those of a viral infection. It is important to be properly treated so the infection does not become chronic. For this reason, it is important to consult your medical provider if you have been experiencing signs and symptoms of an upper respiratory infection and they do not improve rapidly. As part of the diagnostic evaluation, your provider will likely order a CT Scan of the sinuses and perform blood work to identify any systemic inflammatory process.

How Is Bacterial Sinusitis Treated?

Treatment for bacterial sinusitis depends on the severity of the infection. Mild to moderate cases can often be managed successfully with medications, such as antibiotics taken for seven to 10 days. Severe cases may require post-treatment with antibiotics for an extended period of time to prevent a recurrence. If medications do not seem to be working, your doctor may recommend a sinus drainage procedure.

In cases of prolonged or recurrent bacterial infections, it is important to seek treatment early. Delaying or ignoring treatment can lead to more serious complications, such as meningitis (inflammation of the brain and spinal cord tissues). It is important to take all prescribed medications as directed, and to seek medical attention if your symptoms worsen or do not improve as expected.