A sinus infection, also called sinusitis, happens when your sinuses become swollen and inflamed. It’s usually caused by a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection. Your sinuses are air-filled cavities behind your cheeks, nose, and forehead.

They’re lined with a layer of mucus that helps to trap harmful particles in the air you breathe. Usually, this mucus naturally moves into your stomach. However, sometimes it gets stuck when your sinuses are swollen and that leads to congestion.

Steroids such as prednisone and cortisone help to reduce inflammation and swelling. These steroids, known as glucosteroids, are different from testosterone-based anabolic steroids that some people use to build muscle.

Steroid injections are typically used for joint and muscle pain. Most people tend to use glucosteroids in the form of a nasal spray for congestion caused by inflammation, often due to sinusitis or allergies.

However, your doctor may recommend a steroid injection if you have a sinus infection that isn’t responding to other treatments or lasts for more than 12 weeks.

Corticosteroids work to reduce inflammation and swelling in your sinuses. This makes it easier for nasal mucus to drain into your stomach like it usually does. It also reduces pressure in your sinuses, which helps to minimize pain associated with sinus infections.

Steroid injections administer steroids directly into inflamed tissue. This method is much more direct than using a nasal spray or taking an oral steroid.

However, frequent steroid injections can lead to health problems, so they’re usually only used for severe or long-lasting sinus infections.

To get a steroid injection for a sinus infection, your doctor might refer you to an ear, nose, and throat specialist. They’ll apply a numbing agent to your nose or mix one into the injection to minimize pain.

Next, they’ll administer the steroid shot into your sinuses through your nostrils. This is a quick, in-office procedure, and you should be able to go home shortly after.

Steroid injections start working quickly and usually last for a long time. You only need to get another one if your symptoms return, which can happen anywhere from 3 to 12 months after the first injection. However, many people never need to get another injection.

Steroid shots can cause a few temporary side effects. You might feel pain around the injection site for a day or two, but the pain should quickly start going away. If it doesn’t seem to be going away, contact your doctor.

Other potential side effects include:

  • facial flushing
  • trouble sleeping
  • high blood sugar
  • infection of the injection site

Receiving steroid shots over a long period of time can have more serious, permanent effects, such as damage to nearby cartilage or bone. This is why doctors generally don’t recommend getting more than three or four injections a year for any condition.

Steroid shots aren’t generally given for sinus infections, but your doctor might recommend one if other treatments don’t work.

If you still have symptoms after 12 weeks, or if antibiotics or nasal sprays don’t work, a steroid shot may help. This method provides a stronger dose of corticosteroids than other delivery methods, but it may also cause additional side effects.