Cold Home > Diagnosing Sinusitis

When making a sinusitis diagnosis, your healthcare provider will start by performing a physical exam and asking questions about your symptoms, current medications, and any medical conditions you have. In some cases, a CT scan of the sinuses may be recommended. Your healthcare provider will also rule out medical conditions with symptoms that mimic those of a sinus infection, such as tension headaches and seasonal allergies.

How Is a Sinus Infection Diagnosed?

Sinusitis is a condition caused by inflammation of the sinuses. It is most often caused by an infection. Before diagnosing sinusitis, your healthcare provider will begin by asking a number of questions. This will include questions about:
 
  • Your current symptoms (see Sinus Infection (Sinusitis) Symptoms)
  • How long your symptoms have lasted and whether they have improved or gotten worse
  • Any medical conditions that you might have
  • Any medicines that you currently take.
     
The symptoms you have will give your healthcare provider a good idea whether or not you have sinusitis. Your healthcare provider will also perform a physical exam to look for signs of sinusitis.
 

Tests Used to Diagnose Sinusitis

Most cases of sinusitis are diagnosed following a discussion with the healthcare provider and the physical exam. No tests are routinely used to confirm a diagnosis of acute sinusitis. There are also no tests routinely done to help separate sinus infections caused by a bacteria from those caused by a virus.
 
Tests may be recommended, however, if a person has severe symptoms, they have lasted for at least 12 weeks (chronic sinusitis), the person has medical conditions that put them at risk for sinusitis, or if symptoms are vague.
 
One of these tests may be a computed tomography (CT) scan of the sinuses. Your healthcare provider may also recommend certain blood tests or take a sample of tissue from the sinuses.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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