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Inflammatory and Infectious Causes

Viral, Bacterial and Fungal infections cause the delicate mucus membrane linings the nasal passages and sinus cavities to swell, and in some cases block the sinus openings called ostium. If this ostium (opening) is blocked, air and mucus secretions collect and cause pressure on the sinus cavity walls. This pressure is one of the main reasons why we have pain during sinusitis.

One needs to remember mucus is an excellent environment for bacteria and if the mucus is not cleared quickly, bacteria can infect the sinuses and in severe cases result in the formation of abscess.

  • Viral infection - This type of sinus infection is the most common as it may be caused by millions of different strains and viruses. It is also known as an upper respiratory infection (cold or flu). This infection tends to last for a fort night with symptoms similar to a common cold, i.e. a runny nose, congestion or even a sore throat with accompanying post nasal drip and coughing. If left untreated a viral infection may develop into a bacterial infection such as chronic sinusitis.

    As there is no cure for the common cold, one suffering from a sinus infection may often be treated with antibiotics in a bid to prevent the viral infection from progressing and developing into a bacterial infection.
  • Bacterial infection - This type of infection is most often caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae. These types of bacteria are commonly found in the respiratory tract of healthy people and will only result in a bacterial sinus infection when ones immune system is low or has been weakened. Other, less common sinusitis causing bacteria include Staphylococcus aureus and Branhamella catarhallis. Swimming in contaminated water may also result in a bacterial infection of the sinuses.
  • Fungal Infection - Fungi are plant like organisms which are unable to produce their own food. They are usually found living harmlessly in our sinuses, however when the bodies resistance is low, they may become harmful. Their usual diet consists of dead, organic matter, however in certain instances fungi may feed on living organisms such as the delicate mucus membranes that line your sinus and nasal passages resulting in an inflammation of these membranes and a possible fungal infection. Aspergillus fumigatus is one such fungus.

    Our moist, dark and warm nasal passages and sinus cavities provide fungi with the ideal environment in which to thrive and propagate (which can occur in the absence of food or light).
    Fungus includes- molds, yeasts, mushrooms and puffballs.

    There are two types of fungal infections:

    (1) Invasive fungal sinusitis is commonly caused by Aspergillus Fungus and is generally not caused by an allergen (minute particles which causes allergic reactions). It is usually found in patients whose immune systems are severely suppressed (which may be due to AIDS, excessive alcohol use or even diabetes mellitus).

    Invasive fungal sinusitis can be differentiated from Non-invasive fungal sinusitis in that its symptoms include:

    • Nasal obstruction
    • One sided facial pain
    • Inability to move the eyes

    The types of Invasive fungal sinusitis include:

Chronic indolent sinusitis Fulminant sinusitis

This occurs when fungi invades a persons’ body who is not suffering from an immune deficiency or severely weekend immune system.

If left untreated symptoms may include:
-Chronic headaches
-Facial Swelling

This type of sinusitis occurs when fungi invades a persons’ body who has a severely deficient immune system.

In severe cases the fungi may destroy the sinuses as well as invade and cause harm to the bony cavities that protect the eyeball or brain.


(2) Non-invasive fungal sinusitis is commonly found in patients who suffer with asthma, nasal polyps, chronic sinusitis and allergic rhinitis and has the ability to manifest itself through tissue destruction.

The types of non invasive fungal sinusitis include:

Mycetoma fungal sinusitis Allergic fungal sinusitis

This type of fungus may produce clumps of spores in the maxillary or sphenoid sinuses.

Symptoms may include:
-Sinus discomfort
-Slight inflammation of the membrane linings in the sinus cavities.

This occurs when a person experiences an allergic reaction to inhaled environmental fungi floating in the air.

Symptoms may include:
-Thick, fungal debris may develop in the sinus cavities.


  • Allergies - Do you have swollen or itchy eyes, a runny nose, constant sneezing or even a sore throat. All these symptoms can be a sign that you have allergies. An allergic reaction occurring in the nasal passages and sinus cavities may result in swelling and inflammation of the mucus membranes that line these areas. This swelling and inflammation causes a blockage in the openings of the sinus cavities making it an ideal area in which fungi, bacteria or viruses can thrive and propagate.

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Causes of sinusitis can be broadly classified

Click on any of the following to get more information on each of the different causes

  1. Inflammatory and infectious causes
  2. Structural or anatomical causes
  3. Behavioural or life-style related risks
  4. Inherited or acquired causes
  5. Environmental causes
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Treats Hayfever/Allergy attacks and Rhinitis
Relieves Sinus Pressure and Pain
Helps shrink and treat Nasal Polyps
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