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​Invasive Fungal Sinusitis (Fungal Sinus Infection)

Invasive fungal sinusitis is a rare but serious infection caused by inhaling certain types of fungus. It affects the lining of the nose and sinus, causing inflammation and tissue loss.

Learn about the treatment options for Invasive Fungal Sinusitis at the UPMC Pituitary Center of Excellence.

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What is Invasive Fungal Sinusitis?

Invasive fungal sinusitis is an infection of the nasal and sinus lining that leads to inflammation and loss of tissue.

There are two types of invasive fungal sinus infections -- acute and chronic.

The acute version is more serious. As the fungus reproduces, it spreads rapidly into the blood vessels, eye area, and central nervous system with devastating results.

Acute invasive fungal sinusitis is a rare condition with a high death rate. It mostly occurs in people who have compromised immune systems. Weakened immune defenses can allow fungi to invade tissue that is still alive.

Most fungal infections of the sinuses are noninvasive, meaning they won't spread to surrounding tissues. Fungi are present in all paranasal sinuses but can sometimes cause inflammation or infection.

Symptoms are like a sinus infection:

  • Congestion.
  • Facial pain and swelling.
  • Discharge.

But these symptoms may mean you're severely ill with invasive fungal sinusitis.

At UPMC, the preferred surgical treatment for invasive fungal sinusitis is the Endoscopic Endonasal Approach (EEA). This innovative, minimally invasive technique uses the nose and nasal cavities as natural corridors to access hard-to-reach or previously inoperable conditions.

Is invasive fungal sinusitis contagious?

Experts believe that fungal sinus infections are not contagious. Only sinus infections caused by a virus can spread from person to person.

Doctors agree that most people who get fungal sinusitis infections have compromised immune systems and exposure to large amounts of fungus.

Invasive Fungal Sinusitis Symptoms and Diagnosis

To help diagnose invasive fungal sinusitis, your doctor will do a physical exam and ask you about your symptoms.

Symptoms of acute invasive fungal sinusitis

People with acute invasive fungal sinusitis often are very ill, and may have some of the following symptoms:

  • Fever.
  • Facial pain, numbness, or swelling.
  • Cough.
  • Nasal discharge.
  • Headache.
  • Mental status changes.
  • Dark ulcers in the nasal canal or on the roof of the mouth.
  • Visual disturbances.

Chronic invasive fungal sinusitis symptoms

Those with chronic invasive fungal sinusitis usually have symptoms of a long-standing sinus infection, including:

  • Pressure in the forehead, nose, and behind the eyes.
  • Congestion.
  • Drainage.

Orbital apex syndrome is also a sign of chronic sinus infection. Its symptoms include decreased vision and eye mobility, due to the spread of fungi into the eye and orbit.

Invasive Fungal Sinusitis Treatments

Acute invasive fungal sinusitis is a medical emergency. Once you receive a diagnosis, you'll need surgery right away to remove all dead and infected nasal and sinus tissue.

The chronic type also requires surgery and long-term medical therapy.

Minimally invasive surgery for invasive fungal sinusitis

Through the Endoscopic Endonasal Approach (EEA), surgeons can directly access the infected tissue through the natural corridor of the nose.

This state-of-the-art treatment allows surgeons to remove the infected tissue through the nose and nasal cavities, without making an open incision.

Benefits of EEA include:

  • No incisions to heal.
  • No disfigurement.
  • Faster recovery time.

Follow-up treatment for invasive fungal sinusitis

Treatment also includes follow-up with antifungal drugs..

People with invasive fungal sinusitis need to remain under long-term observation by a doctor, as recurrence is common.