When your eyes or the areas around them are painful, it can be difficult to know what’s causing the pain--especially when all you want is for the pain to be gone. A sinus infection, or sinusitis, is an inflammation of the air cavities within the passages of the nose and behind the eyes. A symptom of sinusitis can include pressure-like pain behind the eye. So, a sinus infection can be mistaken for an eye infection. However, there are differences in how the infections occur, why they occur and the symptoms.
Sinus Vs. Eye Infection
Sinusitis can be caused by bacteria, viruses or environmental agents, such as pollens and other irritants. An eye infection also can develop because of viruses and bacteria. In addition, an eye infection can be caused by fungi. An infection can develop in one or both eyes and in different areas of the eye.
Types of Infections
The different types of infections are classified by the inflammation and the time span of the infection. An acute sinus infection has a less than 30 day time span. A chronic sinus infection has a duration of three months or more. A sub-acute infection lasts more than a month, but less than three months. In addition, the type of inflammation can be infectious or noninfectious. In contrast, there are several types of eye infections. Conjunctivitis or “pink eye” is the most common type. Bacterial keratitis, lens-related infection, eyelid infection and herpes keratitis are others.
Symptoms associated with a sinus infection can include a sore throat, cough, facial tenderness and pain. You can have a loss of smell, postnasal drip and bad breath, too, with a sinus infection. Other symptoms are discolored nasal drainage, fever, feeling cloudy or congested in the head, a headache, and stuffiness in the nose.
Eye infection symptoms can include redness, itching, discharge, pain, tearing, swelling and vision problems. Conjunctivitis has distinctive symptoms, such as feeling that there is something in the eye and a crusting of the eyelashes in the morning.
According to Medline Plus, there are various ways to treat a sinus infection. You can apply a moist, warm washcloth on your face and spray nasal saline at least seven times a day. Drink plenty of fluids to thin the mucus. Try to inhale steam two to four times a day. You can do this by sitting in the bathroom with the shower running.
Treatments for an eye infection depend on the underlying causes. For instance, bacterial eye infections can clear up with antibiotic eye drops or ointments. However, viral infections usually clear up on their own.