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Acute sinusitis and rhinosinusitis in adults: Clinical manifestations and diagnosis

Peter H Hwang, MD
Zara M Patel, MD
Section Editors
Daniel G Deschler, MD, FACS
Stephen B Calderwood, MD
Deputy Editor
Lee Park, MD, MPH


Acute rhinosinusitis (ARS) is defined as symptomatic inflammation of the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses lasting less than four weeks. The term "rhinosinusitis" is preferred to "sinusitis" since inflammation of the sinuses rarely occurs without concurrent inflammation of the nasal mucosa [1].

The most common etiology of ARS is a viral infection associated with the common cold. Viral rhinosinusitis is complicated by acute bacterial infection in only 0.5 to 2.0 percent of episodes [2]. Uncomplicated acute viral rhinosinusitis (AVRS) typically resolves in 7 to 10 days. Distinguishing AVRS related to colds and influenza-like illnesses from bacterial infection is a frequent challenge to the primary care clinician. Antibiotics may be indicated for ABRS, but are ineffective and not recommended for AVRS.

This topic will address the clinical manifestations and diagnosis of acute rhinosinusitis. The treatment of acute rhinosinusitis is discussed separately. (See "Acute sinusitis and rhinosinusitis in adults: Treatment".)

Other topics separately discuss the diagnosis or management of related conditions as follows:

Chronic rhinosinusitis (see "Chronic rhinosinusitis: Clinical manifestations, pathophysiology, and diagnosis" and "Management of chronic rhinosinusitis")


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Literature review current through: Feb 2015. | This topic last updated: Jan 13, 2015.
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