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What Are the Dangers of a Sinus Infection?

author image Emily DeSerio
Emily DeSerio has been a freelance writer since November 2009. DeSerio works in the mental health field as a clinical social worker. She began her higher level education at the University of South Florida (USF) with a B.A. in English and went on to complete a Master of Social Work degree at USF as well.
What Are the Dangers of a Sinus Infection?
A brain infection (meningitis) is a dangerous complication from a sinus infection. Photo Credit Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images

According to the University of Maryland, most sinus infections are caused by bacteria, which are easily treated with prescribed antibiotics. In rare cases, a sinus infection may cause dangerous complications if not properly treated. A sinus infection causes the sinus cavity to swell and become inflamed, which leads to severe congestion and difficulty breathing as a result of the common cold or allergies. People who suffer from chronic sinusitis (a sinus infection lasting longer than eight weeks) are at a higher risk of developing dangerous complications, according to the Mayo Clinic. Some dangers of a sinus infection are osteomyelitis, eye socket infection and meningitis.


Osteomyelitis is a bone infection commonly caused by bacteria or fungus. Young men are at the highest risk for developing osteomyelitis as a result of a sinus infection. In rare cases, the infection in the sinus cavity may affect the bones surrounding the sinuses such as the cheek bone and the forehead bone. Common symptoms for osteomyelitis may go unnoticed because they are similar to sinusitis symptoms, which include fever, painful headache and swelling in the forehead. The Mayo Clinic advices seeing a doctor if you have a sinus infection coupled with severe pain, swelling or a fever over 100.5 degrees to prevent serious complications.

Eye Socket Infection

Almost all sinus infections will affect the eyes with minor pain, sensitivity and throbbing due to pressure behind the eye. In rare cases, a sinus infection may spread to the eye socket, also called an orbital infection. Orbital infection is a serious condition, which if untreated can cause permanent damage. Orbital infection can cause loss of sight, loss of control to move the eye and blindness. See a doctor at the first sign of extreme pain in the eye or mucus secretions expelled through the eyes.


The most dangerous condition that can result from a sinus infection is meningitis, an infection around the brain that causes swelling and pressure on the brain and the spinal cord. Meningitis is a serious condition that can result in death. Viral meningitis is treated with medication and you will see improvement within a few days. Bacterial meningitis is more severe and may come on suddenly and is more difficult to treat. If you experience the following symptoms with a sinus infection, call 9-1-1 or seek medical attention immediately: changes in personality, visual complications, confusion, seizures, coma, altered consciousness or severe headaches.

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