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What Causes Chronic Nasal Congestion?

Nasal congestion, a common sinusitis symptom, occurs when viruses, bacteria, or mold get into the sinuses and causes inflammation in the lining. The sinus cavity fills up with fluid and becomes blocked, creating an ideal environment for germs.

Sinus infections are common among people with nasal allergies, since they already have sinus irritation. Infections are also common among those with weakened immune systems, and those who have colds, seasonal allergies, nasal polyps, or a deviated septum.

Sinus congestion is sometimes caused by a bacterial infection. Your MD Now provider may recommend antibiotics to kill the infection.


What To Do If You Have A Severe Sinus Headache?

If you feel pressure around the eyes, cheeks, and forehead, and your head throbs, there’s a good chance you may be experiencing a sinus headache. In other cases, however, it could be a migraine or tension headache instead.

Signs and symptoms of sinus headaches can include:

  • Pain, pressure, and fullness in the cheeks, brow, and forehead
  • Stuffy nose
  • Fatigue
  • Aching in your upper teeth
  • Pain that worsens when lying down or bending forward

Consult Your MD Now Provider If You Experience:

  • Headaches requiring frequent over-the-counter pain medicine for more than 15 days a month
  • A severe headache, with no relief from over-the-counter pain medicine
  • Missed work or school due to frequent headaches

How To Know If You Have A Fungal Sinus Infection? 

To differentiate between a sinus infection caused by bacteria and one caused by fungus, your MD Now provider may recommend lab tests. Though we do not provide fungal testing in our centers, we would recommend if one is needed. A fungal sinus infection is rare, other than in people whose immune systems don’t function normally, those undergoing chemotherapy, or those who’ve had an organ transplant. 

In some people, a fungus in the air can lead to chronic sinusitis. These people may have a change in the immune system that causes the body to attack the fungus, even though the fungus poses no threat. The resulting immune response triggers the inflammation and symptoms of chronic sinusitis.

Regardless of the underlying cause, see your MD Now provider for an effective treatment plan to relieve your sinus infection symptoms.

How Long Do Sinus Infection Symptoms Last?

An acute sinus infection may last anywhere from ten days to several weeks. A chronic sinus infection lasts longer than eight weeks—often returning just when you thought the condition was improving. In some cases, chronic sinus infections can stick around for months at a time. Either type of sinus infection can be viral or bacterial, although some chronic infections are fungal.  

Common sinus infection symptoms include: 

  • Postnasal drip
  • Greenish nasal discharge
  • Headaches
  • Teeth pain
  • Coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Nasal congestion
  • Face tenderness, particularly around the eyes and the bridge of the nose


Where Are The Guidelines For Sinusitis Treatment?

Standard treatment for a bacterial sinus infection is a course of antibiotics, however, the length of treatment will depend on the type of antibiotic, the severity of symptoms, and other patient risk factors. For people with severe or chronic sinusitis, longer treatments may be prescribed. To avoid overuse, antibiotics should be taken only when symptoms last longer than 7 t0 10 days.

Since antibiotics eliminate a sinus infection by attacking the bacteria causing it, they do little to alleviate symptoms until after they’ve taken effect. For immediate, temporary relief, your MD Now provider may recommend other medications as part of your sinusitis treatment.

Is It Possible To Treat A Sinus Infection without Antibiotics?

To treat a sinus infection without antibiotics, your MD Now provider may recommend nasal decongestants to shrink swollen nasal passages. Nasal decongestants should be used for no more than three to four days. Overuse can result in a condition known as rebound phenomenon, which causes the nasal passages to swell shut.

Antihistamines work to block the inflammation which leads to swollen nasal and sinus passages. Topical nasal corticosteroids, a type of prescription nasal spray, prevent and reverse inflammation, and swelling. 

Other nasal treatments include nasal rinses to clear thickened secretions. Finally, if medical therapies have failed, your MD Now provider may refer you to an otolaryngologist for sinus surgery. Surgery can help correct problems, such as nasal polyps or a deviated septum to help open closed passages.

The content provided on the MD Now website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for receiving medical care and treatment from a qualified healthcare provider. Never delay seeking advice, evaluation, and treatment from a medical professional because of what you’ve read on this site, since the information provided may not apply to you or your symptoms.