Medical history for sinusitis

A medical history provides your health professional with many important clues for the diagnosis of your condition. To help diagnose sinusitis, your health professional may ask you the following questions:

About your symptoms:

  • What are your symptoms like? What are your main symptoms?
  • Are you experiencing any facial pain? If so, how long does it last? How intense is the pain, and where does it occur? Is it worse when bending forward?
  • Do you have nasal congestion? How long have you been congested?
  • Do you have any nasal discharge, either from your nose or down the back of your throat? Thick, discolored (green or yellow) discharge is common with acute sinusitis; clear or watery discharge is more commonly associated with allergies.
  • Have you had a fever?
  • Are you experiencing any visual changes, such as double vision, changes in visual acuity, or painful eye movement? These may be signs that complications related to sinusitis are developing.
  • How long have you had these symptoms?

About your past medical conditions and treatments:

  • How often do you have sinusitis symptoms, and how long do your symptoms last?
  • Have you had any recent viral infections (colds or influenza) that involved the upper respiratory tract?
  • Do you have other medical conditions that may increase your risk of developing sinusitis, such as allergies, rhinitis, or asthma?
  • What medicines, including nonprescription medications, are you taking now? Do they relieve your symptoms?

Try to be as specific as possible about how long you have had symptoms and where the pain is located.

Your health professional may also ask questions to help learn whether you have been exposed to irritants that may increase your risk of developing sinusitis or make an existing sinus infection worse. For example, smoke irritates inflamed membranes in your nose and sinuses.

  • Do you or does anyone in your household smoke?
  • Do you have a fireplace or wood-burning stove?

Last Updated: August 15, 2008

Author: Shannon Erstad, MBA/MPH

Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Donald R. Mintz, MD - Otolaryngology

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