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Sinusitis Diagnosis

Often, healthcare providers can diagnose acute sinusitis by reviewing a person’s symptoms and examining the nose and face. Doctors may perform a procedure called rhinoscopy, in which they use a thin, flexible tube-like instrument to examine the inside of the nose.

If symptoms do not clearly indicate sinusitis or if they persist for a long time and do not get better with treatment, the doctor may order a computerized tomography (CT) scan—a form of X-ray that shows some soft-tissue and other structures that cannot be seen in conventional X-rays—to confirm the diagnosis of sinusitis and to evaluate how severe it is.

Laboratory tests that a healthcare professional may use to check for possible causes of chronic rhinosinusitis include

  • Allergy testing
  • Blood tests to rule out conditions that are associated with sinusitis, such as an immune deficiency disorder
  • A sweat test or a blood test to rule out cystic fibrosis
  • Tests on the material inside the sinuses to detect a bacterial or fungal infection
  • An aspirin challenge to test for aspirin-exacerbated respiratory disease. In an aspirin challenge, a person takes small but gradually increasing doses of aspirin under the careful supervision of a healthcare professional.
Front view illustration and side-by-side CT scans of normal and chronic sinusistis. Labeled: frontal sinus, ethmoid sinuses, maxillary sinus, nasal septum, eye socket.
Credit: NIAID

Last Updated May 15, 2015