Nearly everyone, at some point in their lives, will experience a fungal infection. In many cases, they are easily treatable conditions that largely only cause annoyance or inconvenience. Examples of common fungal infections include athlete’s foot, yeast infections, thrush, and ringworm. However, fungi can also cause issues in places such as the sinuses, eyes, and even the brain. While viruses and bacteria more frequently cause sinus infections, fungal infections of the sinuses can also occur. Dr. David Santos at Sinusitis In Seattle provides the best treatment for fungal sinusitis Seattle, Burien, and Renton offers.

Overview: What Is Fungal Sinusitis?

Fungal sinusitis is an infection of the sinuses caused by a fungus. While fungi are present in most people who have sinus infections, it is rarely the main cause. Though, it may contribute to the irritation or infection along with the larger cause. However, fungi alone can also cause sinusitis of all types. 

It is difficult to tell what type of sinusitis you have without invasive tests that in most cases are unnecessary. Therefore, if Dr. Santos suspects a fungal infection, he will likely want to confirm it via various diagnostic tests. Dangerous or invasive forms of sinusitis are rare in the Pacific Northwest.


The symptoms of fungal sinusitis typically present like most other types of sinusitis. This may include symptoms like:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Headaches
  • Facial pain or tenderness
  • Fever
  • Decreased sense of smell and/or taste
  • Foul smell in the nose

In people with compromised immune systems or worse infections, fungal sinusitis can cause more severe symptoms not commonly seen in patients with viral or bacterial sinusitis. This is one of the few times where fungal sinusitis may be distinguishable from other types. Some of these rarer and more severe symptoms may include:

  • Facial numbness
  • Notable changes in skin color (it may become very pale or black)
  • Protruding eyes
  • Severe facial swelling
  • Changes in vision or vision loss
  • Behavior or neurological changes


Like other types of infections, fungal sinusitis can range in severity. It may cause no symptoms or, in the worst cases, can be life threatening. The dangerous forms of fungal sinusitis are rare. Only about three in one million people contract an invasive sinus infection in the United States. The vast majority of fungal sinusitis cases are minor and not invasive. Many will clear up on their own.

Types Of Fungal Sinusitis

Fungal sinusitis occurs in a few different forms. The type of fungal sinusitis you have will dictate the treatment protocol, severity of symptoms, and more. 

Allergic Fungal Sinusitis

This type of fungal sinusitis often occurs in chronic forms and is essentially an allergic reaction to a fungus. Humans are exposed to fungi every day, especially in wet, warm environments. If you are allergic to one, this can cause chronic sinus issues. While generally not life threatening, it can hinder everyday life. The only adequate treatment is surgery and ongoing therapies.

Fungal Ball

A fungus ball occurs when a fungus gets caught in the sinuses. Over time it will expand and collect bacteria which creates a ball in the sinuses. It generally has no symptoms until it blocks off one of the cavities. At this point, a non-invasive surgery to clean out the ball is generally sufficient treatment.

Saprophytic Fungal Sinusitis

Saprophytic fungal sinusitis is when a fungus crusts along the inside of the nasal passages. This is not technically an infection, but it can cause discomfort and slight inflammation. Though, if you already have sinus problems, it likely will not cause new symptoms. Generally, no major medical treatment is needed. Regular nasal irrigation will likely clear up the crusting.

Invasive Fungal Sinusitis

Within the category of invasive fungal sinusitis, there are different types. Regardless, though, this is the most dangerous and rare form of sinusitis. In the United States, invasive fungal sinusitis is rare. Most cases occur in immune compromised people. Though, it can infect healthy people as well. 

In the simplest terms, invasive fungal sinusitis causes a severe immune response and/or destroys sinus tissue and surrounding structures. Even in slow growing forms of the disease, if not treated by a certain point, it can result in severe complications including blindness and death. 

If invasive fungal sinusitis is diagnosed, sinus surgery will need to commence immediately and aggressive anti-fungal therapies. As mentioned, this is exceptionally rare and usually has severe, identifiable symptoms.

Treating Fungal Sinusitis

Many of the treatments for fungal sinusitis are the same or similar to traditional sinusitis treatments. Fungal sinusitis can range from needing no treatment to needing immediate surgical intervention. For most, at-home remedies and potentially medications should make a difference.

Non-Invasive Options

Nasal irrigation is the best treatment for minor fungal sinusitis issues. This will help wash away the fungus in the sinuses and can prevent future infections. It may also alleviate symptoms of chronic sinusitis. Beyond this, the only other non-invasive option is anti-fungal medications. Though, it is more common to prescribe these along with other modes of treatment.

Other than this, fungal sinusitis needs either no treatment or surgical treatment. Home remedies can also help patients manage symptoms. Though, they usually will not get rid of the fungus or tissue it has infected.

Surgical Treatments

Sinus surgery of all types is used to treat fungal sinusitis. Balloon sinuplasty and other less invasive options are great for removing fungal balls and smaller scale infections. More traditional sinus surgery may be necessary if large amounts of infected sinus tissue need to be removed.

The exact surgical technique used will vary depending on the infection. However, it may involve expanding and rinsing the sinuses, removing sinus tissue, and removing the fungus itself. If necessary, Dr. Santos will describe the procedure to you in detail beforehand.

Frequently Asked Questions

When Should You Suspect Fungal Sinusitis?

While it often does not matter what causes a single sinus infection (assuming it goes away and does not recur), there are symptoms and times where a type of fungal sinusitis may be suspected. If you suspect it, Dr. Santos can determine whether your symptoms are related to fungi. Times where fungal sinusitis may be more likely include:

  • Recent travel to an area where fungal sinusitis is common
  • Symptoms that seem to suddenly appear and may only affect one side
  • Changes in skin color (usually near or around the sinuses)
  • Preorbital cellulitis
  • Vertigo (not present before the onset of symptoms)
  • Neurological changes
  • Vomiting

Is It Always Serious?

No, the vast majority of fungal sinus infections will go undetected or easily treated. Fungus is also often found during viral and bacterial sinusitis as well, especially in chronic cases. Life threatening cases are rare.

What Fungi Can Cause Sinusitis?

Thousands of fungi can cause sinusitis. The ones that you are most likely to encounter are the ones associated with allergic fungal sinusitis. These can include Curvularia lunata, Bipolaris, and Aspergillus fumigatus. Invasive sinusitis infections are mostly associated with fungi in the order Mucorales.

How Do You Test For Fungal Sinusitis?

When trying to determine the specific cause of sinus problems, Dr. Santos will often use an MRI to better view the sinuses. He may also perform a biopsy of nasal or sinus tissue. This is generally done under local anesthesia. Dr. Santos may also perform a physical examination. Certain structural features like a deviated septum can make one more susceptible to infections.

Will Antibiotics Treat A Fungal Sinus Infection?

No, if medications are used to treat a fungal sinus infection, it is generally antifungals. The rise of fungal sinusitis is sometimes attributed to the overprescription of antibiotics for viral and fungal sinus infections. The only time antibiotics will be prescribed is if a bacterial infection is also present.

The Best Treatment For Fungal Sinusitis By Dr. David Santos

Fungal sinusitis requires the proper diagnosis and treatment from a trained specialist. Dr. David Santos of Sinusitis In Seattle has over three decades of experience in the Ear, Nose, & Throat field. He has served as the Head of the Department of Otolaryngology at Valley Hospital and has performed thousands of sinus surgeries. Dr. Santos performs the best fungal sinus surgery Seattle, Burien, and Renton offer.

Along with his long career in otolaryngology, Dr. Santos is also an adept facial plastic surgeon. He frequently performs facelifts, rhinoplasty, and laser skin resurfacing. Dr. Santos bridges together medical treatment and aesthetics. To schedule a consultation, call us at 206-242-3696. You can also reach out online via our contact form.

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