Sinusitis is an inflammation of the mucosa that affects the sinuses and can be caused by the cold.

Usually the cause is viral, but bacterial or, more rarely, fungal infections cannot be excluded. In addition, some anatomical situations, such as the deviation of the septum loop or hypertrophy of the turbinates, also predispose to the onset of sinusitis and inflammation.

According to some studies, about 8% of the population in Europe suffers from sinusitis and the estimates assume an increase to 20% by 2020, also due to pollution and resistance to antibiotics.

Prof. Giuseppe Spriano, Head of the Operational Unit of Otorhinolaryngology in Humanitas and lecturer at Humanitas University, talked about this pathology in an interview.

The symptoms of sinusitis

The most common inconvenience or pain is the headache, accompanied by symptoms that are also common to rhinitis (ie colds) such as nasal breathing difficulties, malaise, tearing, decreased sense of smell, catarrhal secretion.

But how to recognize the headache caused by sinusitis? “It is perceived by patients as a weight above or below the eyes (just in correspondence of the sinuses, ed) and in case of changes in altitude as a heavy pain,” explained Prof. Spriano.

The chronic sinusitis

“The occurrence of acute episodes of sinusitis and frequent difficulty breathing are risk factors for the onset of chronic sinusitis,” added Spriano. In this case, surgery is evaluated as the definitive remedy for this annoying disease: “In the case of chronic infections of the paranasal sinuses, i.e. when the communication link between the nasal fossa and the paranasal sinus is closed, it becomes necessary to operate surgically to drain the infection and restore normal breathing”, concluded the professor.

These operations are performed using endoscopic techniques with which the doctor inserts a fiber optic endoscope into the nose and then uses microsurgical and minimally-invasive instruments.


The doctor tends to hypothesize the presence of sinusitis when the common cold disorders persist “for more than 10-15 days, when there is a strong headache that is not relieved by the use of painkillers or if there is even swelling above and below the eyes and in correspondence of the cheekbones. In case of suspicion “a nasal endoscopy or a CT scan must be performed by the otorhinolaryngologist”.

Treatment and prevention: from drugs to spa treatments

In the case of viral sinusitis, antibiotics are excluded: “nasal, mucolytic and antipyretic decongestants are sufficient in case of fever”, said the professor. “Antibiotics, on the other hand, are indicated in cases of bacterial infection, which is recognised by the presence of yellowish and purulent secretions”.

To try to prevent inflammation of the mucous membrane are indicated “thermal inhalation treatments based on sulphurous and salso-bromo-iodine water, ie composed of sodium chloride, iodine and bromine. They have an anti-inflammatory, anticatarral and mucolytic action”.