Information for Consumers - Sinusitis (Chronic)

This article tells you about chronic sinusitis and how it is diagnosed, including what imaging tests you may need to have.

What is sinusitis?

Sinusitis is inflammation in your sinuses. There are two sinuses on your forehead (frontal sinuses), two on the sides of the bridge of your nose (ethmoid sinuses), and two behind the cheekbones (maxillary sinuses). The sinuses behind your cheekbones are the ones that are most often affected.

Sinusitis may also be called rhino sinusitis. Rhino sinusitis is inflammation in your nose (rhinitis) and your sinuses (sinusitis).

An image showing the sinuses

Acute sinusitis usually develops after you have had a cold or flu. It may develop very quickly and usually lasts a week or more. Chronic sinusitis usually develops after acute sinusitis and lasts more than 12 weeks. If you have chronic sinusitis, you may have other problems which are causing your sinusitis.

Symptoms of chronic sinusitis are:

  • A blocked nose (most common)
  • A runny nose (usually green/yellow in colour)
  • Pain or pressure in your forehead, cheeks, nose and between your eyes
  • Headache
  • Ache in teeth
  • Lost sense of smell
  • Cough
  • Bad breath
  • Tiredness
  • Snoring


X-ray examinations are not normally required for diagnosis but your doctor may request a CT scan if you are not improving on antibiotic treatment, or if you keep getting sinusitis. Your doctor may also refer you to an ENT (Ear, nose and throat) specialist.


A radiology doctor will look at the CT scan and write a report for your doctor.

An MRI scan may occasionally be necessary depending on the result of the CT scan.

Further information

For more detailed information, please access InsideRadiology at:

This is a resource produced especially for consumers by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists:

A guide to gathering information that you may need for making informed decisions is published by the Consumers' Health Council of Australia at:

If you would like to look at other relevant articles, please access the following:

Or access the Diagnostic Imaging Pathways website at:

Or if you have questions or require any further information please contact your doctor.


Chronic Sinusitis:

Consumer participation

This information has been reviewed by representatives from the following groups:

  • Aboriginal people
  • People with disabilities
  • Seniors
  • CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse)
  • The Health Consumers' Council


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This article is intended as general information only. The Diagnostic Imaging Pathways team and Radiology Across Borders will not accept any liability arising from its use. The information is kept as up-to-date and accurate as possible. Please be warned that it is always subject to change.


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Date reviewed: July 2017

Date of next review: July 2019