Asked by: Vitalija Brunning
Asked in category: medical health, ear nose and throat conditions
Last Updated: 28th Sep 2023

What is the difference in sinusitis and rhinosinusitis, exactly?

Sinusitis or rhinosinusitis refers to inflammation of the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses. An acute rhinosinusitis lasts for less than 4 weeks. Since inflammation of the sinuses is rare without inflammation of the nasal mucosa, "rhinosinusitis", is preferable to "sinusitis".

People often ask if rhinitis is the same as sinusitis.

Allergy rhinitis (or hay fever) occurs when your nose is inflamed by an allergen. Sinusitis can be either acute or chronic and causes inflammation of the sinus lining.

The next question is how do you distinguish between allergies and sinus infections? Your immune system reacts to allergens such as dust, pollen, and pet dander, and can cause allergy symptoms. If your nasal passages become infected, you will experience a sinus infection or sinusitis. These conditions can lead to nasal inflammation and other symptoms like congestion and stuffy nose.

How is rhinosinusitis diagnosed in this manner?


  1. Imaging tests. Images can be taken with CT or MRI to show your nasal area and sinuses.
  2. The inside of your sinuses. Your doctor can view your sinuses by inserting a thin flexible tube through your nose with a fiberoptic light.
  3. A test for allergy.
  4. Cultures of your sinus and nasal discharge samples

An MRI can show a sinus infection.

Sinus disease can be very common. According to casual observation by the author, around 1/3 of all MRI scans of Chicago's head show changes in the sinuses. Sinuses aren't very sensitive and can cause mild to severe pain.