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What is Rhinosinusitis?


Updated May 29, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: What is Rhinosinusitis?

Rhinosinusitis is the inflammation of the nasal passages and sinus cavities. It is usually caused by allergies or an infection. It causes a combination of symptoms of rhinitis and sinusitis, including:

  • Runny nose
  • Post nasal drip
  • Congestion
  • Facial pain or discomfort
  • Toothaches
  • Feeling of fullness around the nose, under the eyes and forehead
  • Decreased sense of smell

Rhinosinusitis is divided into categories depending on how long the illness lasts. For example, acute rhiniosinusitis (a relatively short duration), subacute rhinosinusitis (an episode that lasts a bit longer than is expected), and chronic rhinosinusitis (for symptoms/infections that fail to resolve within 12 weeks).

Treatment For Rhinosinusitis

Treatment for rhinosinusitis varies, and is usually based on the duration and severity of symptoms. If possible, a culture should be taken of nasal drainage to identify the cause of the illness. If your doctor's evaluation suggests that the infection is bacterial, antibiotics will be prescribed. Antibiotics will not be given for infections caused by viruses, since antibiotics will have no effect whatsoever on these infections.

Symptoms can be often similar regardless of the cause, and can be managed using a few different techniques, such as over-the-counter pain relievers (like acetaminophen or ibuprofen), decongestants (like pseudoephedrine), nasal irrigation, or topical steroids. Allergic rhinosinusitis is often treated with antihistamines as well.

In the case of chronic rhinosinusitis, sometimes endoscopic sinus surgery is necessary. Endoscopic sinus surgery has been proven very successful in treating chronic rhinosinusitis.

Untreated rhinosinusitis can impair your quality of life and lead to other conditions such as nasal polyps.


American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. Rhinosinusitis: What is Chronic Rhinosinusitis?. Accessed: January 5, 2010 from http://www.aaaai.org/patients/publicedmat/sinusitis/whatischronicsinusitis.stm

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