Although a bacterial infection following the cold is the most common cause of acute sinusitis, it can also be caused by allergies or viral and fungal infections.
If you have symptoms of sinusitis, your doctor will probably examine you and use a long swab to take samples from your nasal passages and sinuses. These samples can then be analyzed for signs of bacterial or fungal infection. Nasal swabbing doesn't usually hurt, but it can be uncomfortable, especially if you have structural abnormalities like a deviated septum.
Acute sinusitis is usually easy to treat. In some cases, it clears up on its own, but anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen and aspirin can help alleviate most symptoms. Your physician might also prescribe antibiotics or allergy medication, depending on the cause of your sinusitis. Washing the sinuses out with saline solution (using a saline nasal spray, a sinus cleansing kit or neti-pot) can also help to alleviate the symptoms of acute sinusitis.
If you have sinus headaches and congestion that never seem to go away, or that go away and come back repeatedly, you could be experiencing chronic sinusitis. You have sinus passages that are constantly inflamed, and this causes chronic headaches, difficulty breathing and postnasal drip into the throat.
Unfortunately, in many cases the cause of chronic sinusitis is unknown. Allergies may be a factor, in addition to tiny nasal polyps that can aggravate the sinuses and cause chronic sinusitis.
Chronic sinusitis can be tough to treat because it can be difficult to figure out what's causing it. Acute flare-ups can usually be treated with painkillers, although this won't fix the underlying problem. Your physician might suggest that you wash your sinuses out regularly with saline solution to remove some of the mucus and keep your sinuses from drying out. In extreme circumstances, surgery to remove polyps or enlarge the sinus passages may be recommended.
Whichever type of sinusitis you have, do your best to treat it. A nasty little sinus infection can quickly turn into a more severe one that can spread throughout your body. So, if you find yourself complaining of a sinus headache and congestion for more than a couple of days, visit your doctor to discuss treatment options.