Sinus Infections

Fungal Sinus Infection Symptoms

November 12, 2021

5 minutes

Reviewed by Michael Kaplan, MD

Differentiating fungal sinus infection symptoms from other forms of sinusitis can be difficult considering their symptoms are fairly similar. With both forms of sinus infections, you can expect to experience symptoms such as facial pain or pressure, nasal congestion and drainage, and thick, dark mucus. To get a proper diagnosis, your doctor will need to take a nasal swab and send it off for testing.

Kaplan Sinus Relief is a Houston ENT practice that specializes in treating patients with chronic or recurring sinus infections. In this article, we are going to identify fungal sinus infection symptoms, the types of fungal infections, and advise on treatment options.

What are the symptoms of a fungal sinus infection?

Fungal sinus infection symptoms include:

  • Difficulty breathing or nasal congestion isolated to one side of the nose
  • Facial pain, swelling, or pressure
  • Sinus headache
  • Dark yellow, green, or brown mucus
  • Thick clumps of nasal discharge
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Fever
  • Increased symptoms of asthma
  • Tight chest
  • Coughing

If your immune system is compromised — like in the case of cancer, HIV, asthma, or allergy patients — you may exhibit more severe symptoms including:

  • Behavioral changes
  • Blackening or pale skin
  • Facial numbness
  • Eyes sticking out from their sockets
  • Severe swelling
  • Visual disturbances (orbital apex syndrome)

Types of fungal sinus infections

Allergic fungal sinusitis (AFS)

This is the most common type of fungal infection. When fungi take root in your sinuses, usually through normal respiration, it can cause an allergic reaction. As AFS progresses, it can produce fungal debris, thick mucus, sneezing, and swelling. AFS can reoccur or nasal polyps can form if it is left untreated.

Saprophytic fungus

Saprophytic fungi are a type of fungus that lives on dead or decaying matter and can grow on top of old mucus crusts and dead cells in your sinus cavities. Therefore, your nasal tissue isn’t actually infected and usually, only one side of your sinuses is affected. Treatment for saprophytic fungal sinus infections is pretty straightforward as it usually just requires the removal of the mucus crusts.

Fungal ball (mycetoma)

A fungal ball is a type of fungal infection that occurs when the fungi in your sinus cavities form into a clump or ball. When left untreated, this ball can grow and prevent your sinuses from draining properly. To treat a fungal ball, your ENT will likely suggest surgery in order to effectively clean out the sinuses.

Invasive fungal sinusitis

Invasive fungal sinusitis is the most severe form of fungal sinus infection. Not only does it infect the lining of the nose and sinuses, but it can destroy the tissues too. There are three different types of invasive fungal sinusitis including chronic indolent/granulomatous sinusitis, chronic invasive sinusitis, and acute fulminant invasive fungal sinusitis. Patients usually experience fairly severe symptoms, whether they are immunocompromised or not, and should seek treatment as soon as they notice symptoms.

How to test for fungal sinusitis

There are two ways your doctor can test for fungal sinusitis: a C-T scan and/or a sinus culture. Once your ENT has collected a sample from your sinus cavities, they’ll send it off to be tested for mucoproteins and other signs of fungi. It’ll also show up in your sinuses as a cloudy or opaque spot on your C-T scan.

Can you smell a fungal sinus infection? Some patients experience a bad smell in their nose when they have a sinus infection. However, this is often a symptom that gets overlooked. If you notice an unfamiliar stench coming from your nose, head on in to see your ENT as you may be getting a sinus infection.

Fungal sinus infection treatment

Fungal sinusitis can be treated with just antifungals called “azoles”, but typically require a procedure or surgery, such as endoscopic sinus surgery, as well to fully remove the fungus as well as any infected tissue and mucus. 

An untreated fungal sinus infection, specifically if it’s an invasive fungal sinus infection, can spread to other organs — including your eyes or your brain — and can permanently damage the tissue leading to blindness and in severe cases, even death. Even if you notice mild symptoms, do not wait to see an ENT. The earlier you can catch a fungal sinus infection, the less chance it has to spread and the sooner you can treat it.

Get the fungal sinus infection treatment you need at Kaplan Sinus Relief

Fungal sinus infection symptoms can be hard to identify and require a proper diagnosis from your ENT as well as a combination of antifungals and surgery to treat it.

If you’re concerned that you have fungal sinusitis, Kaplan Sinus Relief is here to provide patients with advanced sinus treatment options. Dr. Kaplan, founding doctor of Kaplan Sinus Relief is a board-certified medical doctor, sinus specialist, and one of the pioneers of the balloon sinuplasty procedure. Whatever your sinus symptoms are, we can help.

Call us at 713-766-1818 or request an appointment online today! 

More Helpful Articles by Kaplan Sinus Relief:


4101 Greenbriar Street, Suite 320

Houston, TX 77098