How to Tell If Your Sinus Problems Are Caused by Fungus

Bottom line: you’ll probably need a doctor to definitively diagnose a fungal infection in your sinuses. The symptoms of a sinus infection are pretty much the same whether they’re caused by fungi or bacteria. But if you have one, it’s important, and can even be critical, to get your fungal sinus infection diagnosed.

Causes of Sinus Infections and Similar Symptoms

Following are some of the causes of sinus infection-like symptoms:

  • Viruses (approximately 90% of true sinus infection cases)
  • Bacteria (most of the rest of the sinus infection cases)
  • Pollution (chemicals, smoke, air pollution for those who are sensitive)
  • Allergic reactions
  • Nasal polyps
  • Fungi


Most sinus infections are not caused by fungi. The vast majority, nine out of ten cases in adults, are caused by viruses. And most of the remaining cases are caused by bacteria, either primarily or as a secondary infection after the virus. Fungal sinus infections are fairly rare.

And thank goodness. Because some – repeat, some – fungal infections can become invasive. Most of those cases involve patients with reduced immune function. Health professionals are seeing a slight increase in the incidence of fungal sinus infections in those who don’t have a clear immunity problem. And especially because of the fear of developing an invasive form, fungal infections need to be diagnosed as quickly as possible.


These are symptoms common to sinus infections in general:

  • Runny nose
  • Pain or pressure in the face, headache
  • Loss of smell/taste
  • Postnasal drip (you can feel dripping in the back of your throat)
  • Sore throat
  • Fever (contact your doctor)
  • Coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Bad breath

See a Doctor

Be sure to see a doctor if:

  • If any of these symptoms become serious
  • If the symptoms don’t go away (especially if it doesn’t go away with treatment)
  • If the symptoms recur
  • Caution: Contact your doctor if you get a fever.


A simple culture is not enough. A CT scan can suggest that your sinuses have been infected by a fungus. But a final diagnosis may not be possible without taking a sample of your sinus contents. It doesn’t sound like fun, but it could be crucial to your health.


Whatever you do, don’t learn to live with it. If the symptoms keep returning, or worsen, or you get a fever, go to the doctor. A fungal sinus infection is rare. But life is a lot better without one.

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