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Sinusitis Symptoms

Most people with sinusitis have facial pain or tenderness in several places, and their symptoms usually do not clearly indicate which sinuses are inflamed. The pain of a sinus attack arises because trapped air and mucus put pressure on the membranes of the sinuses and the bony wall behind them. Also, when a swollen membrane at the opening of a paranasal sinus prevents air from entering into the sinuses, it can create a vacuum that causes pain.

People with sinusitis have thick nasal secretions that can be white, yellowish, greenish, or blood-tinged. Sometimes these secretions drain in the back of the throat and are difficult to clear. This is referred to as “post-nasal drainage.” Chronic post-nasal discharge may indicate sinusitis, even in people who do not have facial pain.

However, facial pain without either nasal or post-nasal drainage is rarely caused by inflammation of the sinuses. People who experience pain but no nasal discharge often are diagnosed with a pain disorder—such as migraine, cluster headaches, or tension-type headaches—rather than sinusitis.

Less common symptoms of acute or chronic sinusitis include

  • Tiredness
  • Decreased sense of smell
  • Cough that may be worse at night
  • Sore throat
  • Bad breath
  • Fever

On very rare occasions, acute sinusitis can result in brain infection and other serious complications.

Last Updated May 15, 2015