a man suffering from sinusitis in a field

Sinusitis Risk Factors

Sinusitis is the inflammation and infection of the sinuses, which are the hollow cavities or spaces in your skull that surround your nose and eyes. Normally, the sinuses function like pockets of air that assist your nose in warming, moistening, and filtering the air you breathe.

Because your sinuses are lined with soft mucous, they can trap and drain foreign particles, which might otherwise make you sick. But when your sinuses become obstructed and have no way to drain, those foreign agents such as viruses, bacteria, and fungus can multiply rapidly, causing sinusitis. Any cause for irritation and swelling in your sinuses, which would hinder your sinus passages from draining, can cause sinusitis. According to the Cleveland Clinic, approximately 40 million Americans are affected by sinusitis every year.

Demographic factors that increase your potential for having sinusitis:

  • Females suffer from sinusitis twice as often as men.
  • The elderly, being more susceptible to respiratory infections, have increased vulnerability.
  • People living in the Southern United States are diagnosed with sinusitis more often than those living elsewhere.
  • Adults are more prone to getting sinusitis than children are.

Behaviors that may exacerbate sinusitis:

  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Swimming and diving
  • Climbing, scuba diving, or flying
  • Smoking

Environmental influences that may increase your likelihood of developing sinusitis:

  • Face trauma, particularly to the nose area may alter the placement of the wall between the nostrils (deviated septum), cause bony obstructions, or result in the growth of scar tissue.
  • Drier climates may cause more irritation to the nasal and sinus passages.
  • Exposure to harsh chemicals or pollutants, in the workplace or at home, is commonly associated with sinusitis.

Pre-existing conditions that put you at a greater risk of developing sinusitis:

  • Conditions that increase the production of mucous or that decrease your ability to clear out mucus, such as cystic fibrosis, pneumonia, chronic bronchitis, or myasthenia gravis.
  • Conditions that cause recurring episodes of inflammation in the upper respiratory region, such as allergies and asthma.
  • Dental infections can spread to the sinuses, particularly the maxillary sinuses, which are located behind the upper jaw and cheek bone.
  • Conditions that suppress your immune system, such as HIV, may compromise your body’s ability to prevent fungus from becoming too populous within the sinuses.
  • Conditions that introduce harmful matter, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
  • Sensitivity to aspirin can cause irritation and inflammation in the sinuses.
Last Updated: February 10, 2017