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Some sinus infections may be treatable with medical therapy and/or lifestyle changes, while others may require surgery. Most short-term sinus infections can be treated medically. Even people with long-term or chronic sinus infections can find relief through medication. But if none of these treatments works, sinus surgery may be another option to help ease the symptoms.

The most common type of sinus surgery is functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS). The type of sinus surgery the doctor recommends depends on a person's condition. In general, the goal of sinus surgery is to flush out infected material, open blocked passages, and keep enough healthy tissue intact so that the nose and sinuses can function normally.

Medical treatments are typically tried first. The doctor will suggest surgery only after all other treatments have failed to ease the symptoms.

Diagram depicting the 90% of sinus sufferers who report that their sinus problem negatively affects their quality of life.

Medical Treatment

Acute sinus infections may have the same symptoms as a cold and many cases go away on their own. The doctor may suggest taking a common decongestant to ease the symptoms.

If the sinus infection lingers for longer than a week, it could be caused by bacteria. In this case, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics. Most cases of acute bacterial sinusitis clear up after a course of antibiotics. Chronic sinus infections can also be treated medically by oral, nasal, or injected antibiotics.


Functional endoscopic sinus surgery is a common surgical method to treat chronic sinus infections. In a FESS procedure, the surgeon uses a magnifying endoscope inserted through the nostrils to see and remove affected tissue and bone.

FESS procedures:

  • Ethmoidectomy — which helps clear the sinuses located between the eyes and the bridge of the nose
  • Maxillary antrostomy — which helps the sinuses behind the cheekbones drain more effectively
  • Powered septoplasty with turbinoplasty — which helps clear up breathing difficulties caused by a deviated or crooked nasal septum and enlarged turbinates in the nose

Data on File. Medtronic, Inc.