Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Your doctor may use several methods to help screen for acute sinusitis, such as:

  • Physical exam. To look for the cause of your symptoms, your doctor will feel for tenderness in your nose or throat. Your doctor may use a tool to hold your nose open and apply medication that constricts blood vessels in your nasal passages. This makes it easier to see inside your nasal passages. Your doctor will then shine a light into your nasal passages to look for inflammation or fluid. This visual inspection will also help rule out physical conditions that trigger sinusitis, such as nasal polyps or other abnormalities.
  • Nasal endoscopy. A thin, flexible tube (endoscope) with a fiber-optic light inserted through your nose allows your doctor to visually inspect the inside of your sinuses.
  • Imaging studies. Images taken using computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can show details of your sinuses and nasal area. While not recommended for uncomplicated acute sinusitis, imaging studies may help identify abnormalities or suspected complications.
  • Nasal and sinus cultures. Laboratory tests are generally unnecessary for diagnosing acute sinusitis. However, in cases in which the condition fails to respond to treatment or is progressing, tissue cultures may help pinpoint the cause, such as identifying a bacterial cause.
  • Allergy testing. If your doctor suspects that the condition may be brought on by allergies, an allergy skin test may be recommended. A skin test is safe and quick, and can help pinpoint the allergen that's responsible for your nasal flare-ups.
Jul. 02, 2013

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