Sinuses are small air-filled spaces within the skull or bones of the head surrounding the nose. Sinusitis is an inflammation of the tissues and membranes lining the sinuses. Because of this, the sinuses, which are usually filled with air, become filled with germs-containing fluids as the swelling and inflammation traps mucus, leading to an infection. 

Sinusitis can be caused due to other nasal disorders, such as a deviated nasal septum, common cold, allergic rhinitis or nasal polyps. It can also be caused due to exposure to chemicals or irritant substances which cause irritation in the sinuses. 

There are different types of sinusitis, such as:

  • Acute sinusitis: Sudden onset of sinusitis

  • Chronic sinusitis: A persistent sinus infection over a prolonged period (over eight weeks)

  • Subacute sinusitis: A sinus infection lasting longer than acute sinusitis but less than chronic sinusitis.

  • Recurrent sinusitis: Repeated episodes of sinus infections throughout the year

People who have allergies, asthma, or a generally weaker immune system are at a greater risk for developing sinusitis. ​

A stuffy, congested nose and mucus discharge from the nose are common, prominent symptoms of sinusitis. Besides this, other signs and symptoms of this disorder include:

Regularly blowing the nose to clear the discharge from the sinuses which drains in your nose

  • Reduced sense of smell and taste because of the nasal congestion 

  • Pain in the face around your forehead, on either side of your nose, in your upper jaws and teeth, or between your eyes with a dull feeling of pressure

  • Headache towards the front

  • Cough due to postnasal drip

  • Sore throat

  • Fever

  • Bad breath

  • General tiredness and fatigue

  • Pain in the teeth​

Symptoms of sinusitis improve on their own within two to three weeks. However, if you face the above-mentioned symptoms for a prolonged period of time, you must see your doctor. If your symptoms do not show any improvement after three to four weeks, you must schedule an appointment with an ENT specialist working with the Eye and ENT Service Line of The Aga Khan University Hospital. Fever along with sinusitis symptoms is also a cause for concern, necessitating further evaluation of your symptoms by the doctor. 

Your time with your doctor may be limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.

Your medical history assessment and physical examination are important steps towards diagnosing sinusitis. It is particularly important to make the correct diagnosis as symptoms of sinusitis are very similar to those of the common cold or other respiratory infections or viral illnesses.

The doctor will feel and press your sinuses to check for any pain around your sinuses or even in your teeth. The doctor will also look for signs of swelling of the nasal tissue, bad breath and a greenish nasal discharge. Presence of these will indicate the likelihood of sinusitis.

In some cases, the doctor may also request X-rays, allergy testing, CT (Computerized Tomography) scan of the sinuses, or blood tests to make a correct diagnosis. In some cases, mucus culture of samples collected from the nose or sinuses will also be requested to find out about the type of bacteria causing the disorder.

Doctors may also request a nasal endoscopy to examine the sinuses further, which allows the doctor to observe the sinus drainage pathways. This procedure is useful in checking for signs of obstruction or detects nasal polyps which can't be seen from routine nasal exam.​

Sinusitis symptoms usually start improving after a week to ten days. However, for sinusitis caused by bacterial infection that lasts longer without showing any signs of improvement, antibiotics are prescribed. The course of the antibiotics could vary from one week to longer than that, depending on the severity of the sinus infection. 

Besides these, other medications that could be prescribed to you include:

  • Antihistamines

  • Nasal decongestant sprays

  • Nasal corticosteroid sprays to reduce swelling and inflammation of the sinuses

  • Nasal saline washes

Besides these, certain at-home treatments can also help provide relief from the symptoms of sinusitis. For example, inhaling steam from a hot, boiling water (off the heat), using saline drops, quitting smoking, applying warm packs to the face, regularly cleaning the inside of the nose with warm, saline water and avoiding substances which trigger allergies are some additional measures you can take to improve symptoms of sinusitis. 

In case the above treatment options do not help improve your symptoms or provide relief, surgery may be recommended to remove drainage and open up closed passage by removing any blockages to the sinuses, such as nasal polyps. 

ENT (Eye-Nose-Throat) surgeons at The Aga Khan University Hospital the only internationally accredited hospital of Pakistan are specially trained in the treatment of ear, nose and throat problems with surgical means. Discuss the potential risks and side effects of surgery in detail with your ENT specialist before you carry on with any surgical procedure. ​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

 The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.

 The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments' costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.​

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage


The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.