Sinusitis and rhinosinusitis are different names for the same condition – a sinus infection that develops when the channels that drain the sinuses become blocked, preventing mucus from draining and allowing bacteria to build up. Inside the warm sinuses, bacteria find the ideal environment to multiply, and because the sinuses aren't draining the way they should, infections and inflammation can become chronic. Sinusitis often occurs following a respiratory illness such as a cold or flu, when irritated or inflamed sinuses make it more difficult for mucus to properly drain. People with asthma, allergies, and deviated septums also are more prone to sinusitis.
Sinusitis causes an array of symptoms, including:
facial pain concentrated around the cheeks and eyes that becomes worse when bending over
decreased sense of smell and sometimes taste
A medical history, description of current symptoms and physical exam are all important parts of the sinusitis diagnosis process. In some cases, a thin, flexible tube called an endoscope may be used to look inside the sinuses to look for inflammation and other signs. In a few cases, a CT scan may be ordered to get a closer “inside view” of the sinuses and nasal passages to look for blockages.
Sinusitis can often be treated successfully with antibiotics to clear up a persistent infection, as well as nasal sprays to help keep sinus passage clear of mucus. When medication doesn't work, surgery may be necessary to “unblock” the sinuses or nasal passages and allow mucus to drain properly. It's generally a good idea to avoid over-the-counter nasal sprays which, when overused, can actually make congestion much worse.