Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Difference Between Migraine And Sinus Headache

Sinus Migraine: When Sinus Pain Is More Than A Headache

What is the difference between “sinus headaches” and migraine?

You have a headache. It extends over your eye and you have pressure in your face. Your nose even runs a little. You take some Sudafed or ibuprofen, tell everyone you have a sinus headache or even a sinus migraine, and lay down for a while. Two or three hours later you are better. You might have a little residual soreness and you might be a little tired, but the worst of the headache is over. Youve just had a sinus headache or was it?

You could have had a migraine that isnt even related to any sinus issues and not realize it. You felt sinus pain and pressure, so your mind automatically went to sinus headache. Your doctor may even have told you it was sinus related and the subject of migraines never came up. It happens a lot more than you might think. In fact, nearly 90% of patients who visit their doctor and complain of sinus headache actually have a migraine or migraine-type headache.

This is an easy misdiagnosis, but its important to get it right because sinus-related headaches and straight-up migraines are treated differently. For a sinus headache, a decongestant could be key. But if youre having a migraine, you might benefit most from a simple pair migraine glasses like these, or other remedies that are designed for migraine.

Common Sinus Headache Symptoms

  • Fever: You won’t always run a temperature when you have a headache caused by sinusitis, but it’s a distinct possibility, especially if the infection is caused by a bacteria rather than a virus. In that case, an antibiotic actually may be in order to knock out the bacteria.
  • Purulent nasal discharge: A thick, yellowish or greenish discharge is a sign of infection.
  • Ear or upper tooth pain: Ear and upper tooth pain are common complaints in those suffering from a sinus infection.

Talking To Your Doctor About Your Headaches

Your search for a migraine diagnosis and relief from your headaches usually begins with your primary care provider. He or she may send you to several specialists before you get answers, or you may go directly to a headache specialist or neurologist. In other words, you may find that you are repeating yourself to each new doctor. Dont let this discourage you. Sometimes it takes a little digging and searching to get answers, but it is worth it. Create your own headache file with notes and documentation from doctors visits and tests as well as your migraine diary.

Dr. Ailani has this advice: Keep track of your headaches, write down when they happen, how long they last, and what symptoms come with the headache.

She also recommends noting specific characteristics of your headache or migraine by considering these questions:

  • Do you prefer to be in the dark, or in a quiet area with a headache?
  • Do you find your stomach gets upset and smells bother you?
  • Would you prefer to sleep if you could?
  • Do your headaches last several hours or several days?
  • Have your parents, siblings, aunts/uncles, grandparents, and cousins ever had headaches? Migraines tend to run in families, but most families dont discuss this.
  • What have you tried for your headaches? What works or does not work?
  • How have your headaches changed over time?

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Are These Your Symptoms

From those patients confirmed with a migraine diagnosis in the study:

  • 83% noticed the weather affected their headaches
  • 73% noticed seasonal variations in their headaches
  • 62% said their headaches were triggered by allergies
  • 56% had nasal congestion
  • 25% had a runny nose
  • 22% had red eyes
  • 19% had watery eyes

You could be forgiven for thinking these symptoms are sinus related. They look a lot like the symptoms you might expect from a sinus infection so its no surprise that there is a significant amount of confusion between sinus headache and migraine.

Results found that 9 out of 10 patients in the study had migraine, not sinus headache.

Furthermore, the 100 patients from the study had seen an average of 4 physicians each and had gone on average 25 years without the correct diagnosis or significant relief.

Thats 25 years without significant relief and 4 physicians who had gotten the diagnosis wrong!

The lead investigator of the SAMS study Dr. Eross says It was hard to convince some of them that they actually suffered from migraine headaches, said Dr. Eross. Many were shocked.

One in ten people from the study knew they had migraine, but thought they had sinus headaches in addition. In reality they actually suffered two different types of migraine, one with sinus symptoms and one without, Dr. Eross noted.

Much of the pain or pressure is in the face, on both sides, so it doesnt occur to them that this might be a migraine. Dr Eross

You Can Deal With Debilitating Migraines

Headaches Vs. Migraine: Differences Worth Knowing

You can deal with migraines by knowing your triggers and managing them. As Williams reminded me, everyone’s triggers are different, but the generalized triggers are as follows: change in stress, hunger and dehydration, lack of sleep, too much sleep, direct pressure to the head , rigorous physical activity, and diet have been associated with migraines.

Also, keep a headache diary so that you and your doctor can monitor the symptoms, intensity, and what brings them on. Lastly, don’t be afraid to seek professional help.

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Sinus Headache Vs Tmj Migraine: Which One Do You Have

Many patients with TMJ disorder, short for temporomandibular joint disorder or simply TMD, experience pain on a regular basis. The pain can be chronic and debilitating.

Some might point to this as the difference between a sinus headache and a TMJ migraine. Thats not necessarily the case though.

Sinus headaches arent limited to when you have a cold or sinus infection. The sinus inflammation and congestion of allergies often lead to regular headaches.

Thats why it can be so confusing for people to identify what kind of headache theyre dealing with.

Lets take a moment to take a more in-depth look at the symptoms caused by TMJ pain versus sinus pain.

Whats The Difference Between A Sinus Headache And A Migraine Headache

While sinus headaches are caused by a viral or bacterial infection, the cause of migraine headaches is, in large part, unknown. It involves a complex interplay between nerves, brain tissue, blood vessels, and brain chemicals. What makes it so complex is that in addition to the cause being unknown, they can be triggered by almost anything, from red wine, to bright lights, to not getting enough sleep one night .

While migraine pain can be noted in the cheek area and involve nasal membrane swelling like sinus headaches, theyĆ¢re often associated with very different symptoms.

For example, migraines can be associated with light and /or sound sensitivity and nausea, with or without vomiting. These are only seen with sinus headaches on very rare occasions. On the flip side, migraine headaches are typically not associated with thick discolored nasal discharge or fever.

Also Check: What Is The Best Sinus And Allergy Medicine

Migraine Vs Headache Diagnosis

Although there are no specific tests for migraine headaches, your doctor may order tests to exclude other conditions or problems that are triggering your headaches. This may include blood work or different brain imaging, such as CAT scan or MRI. In rare cases, your doctor may order a spinal tap to exclude causes of more serious, severe headaches.

A doctor who is experienced in treating various headaches can help differentiate the type of headaches that you have. A sinus headache often mimics some signs and symptoms of migraines.

Monitoring the duration of your headache can provide important information that can help diagnosis the type of headache you are experiencing. Migraine headaches may last a few hours to three days, while tension headaches may last only 30 minutes or linger for up to a week.

  • Keep a headache diary to help identify triggers that lead up to the onset of the headache, for example, menstrual cycles for women, hormone treatments, and alcohol intake.
  • Keep track of when a headache begins, the severity of the pain, any associated symptoms, how long the headache lasts, and any medications that you have taken.
  • If there does not seem to be any clearly identifiable cause for your headaches, maintain a diet diary, and keep track of any foods or drinks that you may have consumed the day before a headache to identify possible triggers.

How Is A Sinus Headache Different From A Migraine Attack

Sinus Pain or a Migraine?

Whereas a sinus headache is a result of pressure on the nasal walls, migraine attacks originate in the brain, says Rajneesh. Theres often a clear association in a person who has a history of allergies, and then their allergies flare up, which then leads to headaches, and the headache is usually frontal, he says.

According to the American Migraine Foundation, people with allergic rhinitis are more than 10 times more likely to have migraine.

Although both migraine and a sinus headache can come with a runny nose, with migraine the discharge is usually clear, whereas in a headache that comes with sinusitis, it can be colored or foul smelling, says Rajneesh.

Migraine attacks are often associated with other symptoms besides a headache, which can include nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, and sound sensitivity, according to Weber. Some migraine patients have an aura, typically visual, with spots, lights, or colors prior to the onset of a migraine attack, he says.

How a Migraine Attack Unfolds

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Migraines Are Known For Their Throbbing Quality

There is another headache called the “Occipital Neuritis,” according to Dr. Michael E. Platt. “This headache comes from the occipital nerve sheath at the base of the skull,” he told me. “It commonly shoots into the back of the eye, and can even cause a visual field defect. The headache is often excruciating and is always mistaken by doctors as being a migraine headache.”

So what makes it different? Dr. Platt notes it is “a steady piercing pain, and not throbbing like a migraine headache.”

Migraine Or Sinus Headache: How To Tell The Difference

Everyone has experienced a headache in their life. Some from dehydration, others from stress, some even just have chronic headaches. Some headaches are more than annoying, they can be debilitating to the people that have them, and some can even make people feel sick. These severe headaches are likely to be migraines. Yes, there can be relief but what if what has worked to alleviate the pain in the past is no longer working? Drinking water, taking Tylenol, trying to sleep more but nothing seems to help. The feeling of pressure along with the lack of relief with traditional anti-headache methods can indicate a problem outside of the normal headache. It may be a sign of migraines or problems in the sinuses.

Recommended Reading: Advil Cold And Sinus Recommended Dosage

Treatment For Migraine Headaches

Migraine can be triggered by certain foods, activities, and other conditions. Over-the-counter pain relievers, prescription drugs, pills, shots, and nasal sprays are some of the treatment options for migraine. These drugs are also used to treat seizure disorder, depression, and heart conditions.

If your symptoms become more severe and more consistent and dont go away with medications and keep you from doing normal activities, you must visit Artisans of Medicine, to get the best consultation from the well-qualified doctors of urgent care in Brooklyn, NYC.

Treatment For Sinus Pain

Difference Between Migraine and Sinus Headache

If you have pain thats caused by sinusitis, the following self-care measures may help ease your symptoms:

  • Inhaling steam.Inhaling steamy air may help loosen mucus and ease inflammation. You can do this by draping a towel over your head and leaning over a bowl of warm water. Standing in a warm, steamy shower may also help.
  • Using a nasal wash. A nasal wash is a saline solution and helps to flush out your sinuses. You can buy saline washes over-the-counter or make your own at home.
  • Taking OTC medications. Various OTC medications may help relieve symptoms like pain, inflammation, and sinus congestion:
  • pain medications like ibuprofen , naproxen , and acetaminophen
  • nasal decongestants, such as Sudafed and Mucinex Sinus Max
  • nasal corticosteroids like Flonase and Nasacort

Recommended Reading: Sinus Pressure Points To Relieve Congestion

Sinus Headache Or Migraine How To Tell The Difference

When you have a headache, it can be hard to pinpoint the cause. Is it a sinus headache? Is it a migraine? While it may not matter to you in the aching, painful moment, understanding the difference between the two can help you to manage your pain more effectively.

Although sinus headaches and migraines share symptoms and other characteristics, the two headaches have distinct diagnoses. About 90 percent of self-diagnosed sinus headaches are actually migraines, according to the American Migraine Foundation.

How To Spot The Difference Between Migraines & Sinus Headaches

If you have a runny nose, watery eyes and your head hurts, you might assume that you have a sinus headache. But studies show that about 90% of self-diagnosed sinus headaches are actually migraine.

Theres a belief that sinus headache is a common illness. The marketing of over-the-counter medications designed to treat these symptoms reinforce this belief.. However, a sinus headache is not as common as you might think.

How can you tell if you have migraine or sinus headache and get the treatment you need? Lets start by defining migraine and sinus headache.

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The Different Types Of Sinusitis

When it comes to sinusitis, there are three different terms doctors may use, including acute sinusitis, subacute sinusitis, and chronic sinusitis.

  • Acute sinusitis happens fast but can improve with antibiotics prescribed by a doctor.
  • Subacute sinusitis can generally last for two to three months and may not get better, even with antibiotics.
  • Chronic sinusitis symptoms may improve with antibiotics but have a higher chance of reoccurring within two to three months, or throughout the year.

How To Tell The Difference Between Sinus Headaches And Migraines

Sinus Headache vs Migraine

by HealthStar Clinic | May 22, 2018 | Blog, Migraine |

Can you spot the difference between a migraine and a sinus headache? Both bring about similar symptoms, but getting the best treatment comes down to an accurate diagnosis. Be that as it may, the American Migraine Foundation reports that a self-diagnosed sinus headache is almost always, in reality, a migraine in disguise.

On the hunt for migraine relief in Montgomery or Prattville? You first need to understand what youre battling. Heres how to tell the difference between a sinus headache and migraine.

Migraine Symptoms

Migraines are more than simply bad headaches. Its actually considered a neurological disease that affects a staggering 39 million people in the U.S. Symptoms vary, but Healthline identifies these common ones:

  • Head pain
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Light and/or sound sensitivity
  • Seeing spots/vision disruptions

Migraines generally fall into one of two camps: with aura or without aura. In this scenario, the word aura points to subtle warning signs that usually precede a migraine. According to the National Headache Foundation, common auras include:

  • Visual symptoms
  • Tingling in one arm or leg

Sinus Headache Symptoms

Sinus headaches are tricky because the symptoms can sometimes mimic the ones associated with migraines. The most distinctive part of a sinus headache is that it happens alongside a sinus infection, so there are some specific things to look out for. According to WebMD, the biggest red flags are:

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How Do You Diagnose Sinus Headaches Caused By Migraines

Sinus headaches are most likely due to migraines or tension headaches. Migraines are diagnosed by symptoms, including the frequency and severity of symptoms, family history, and by physical exam. Migraines can also include nausea and vomiting. These episodes may be triggered by hormonal changes, lack of sleep, certain foods or alcohol or caffeine, stress, or environmental changes like weather, altitude changes, or allergens. Many patients with migraines have family members who also experience migraine headaches.

If you have unusual or severe symptoms, additional tests such as an MRI of the brain may be ordered to rule out more serious conditions that can cause headache pain, such as tumors or bleeding around the brain. If you have repeated episodes of sinus pain and pressure, a nasal endoscopy or imaging such as an MRI or CT scan can determine if sinus pain or pressure is due to a sinus infection or other sinus pathology. A normal sinus CT scan while you have symptoms could help rule out sinusitis, and determine if migraines, headaches, or other causes of facial pain and pressure are causing the sinus symptoms.

Other causes of facial pain and pressure can include temporomandibular joint syndrome, clenching or grinding your teeth, trigeminal nerve pain, temporal arteritis , dental infection, or other neurologic causes of facial pain.

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Migraines Have More Specific Locations

The eyes have it! As Dr. Khorsandi explained, “Migraines are usually located behind the eye.” Indeed, my eyes almost always feel like ticking bombs during my worst migraines and I don’t want to use my peepers for anything, hence why I prefer to curl up in a fetal position in both darkness and silence.

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Allergy Sinusitis And Sinus Headache Resources

There are a number of very good resources available for people suffering from allergies, sinusitis, and sinus headaches:

  • Al-Hashel, J. Y., Ahmed, S. F., Alroughani, R., & Goadsby, P. J. . Migraine misdiagnosis as a sinusitis, a delay that can last for many years. Retrieved from
  • Bono, F., Messina, D., Giliberto, C., Cristiano, D., Broussard, G., Fera, F., . . . Quattrone, A. . Bilateral transverse sinus stenosis predicts IIH without papilledema in patients with migraine. Retrieved from
  • Cady, R. K., & Schreiber, C. P. . Sinus headache or migraine? Retrieved from
  • Chronic sinusitis. . Retrieved from
  • C. . Sinus Headaches. Retrieved from
  • December 62:752-754, J. F., & Author: Christopher Boisselle, MD Richard Guthmann, MD, MPH Kathy Cable, MLS. . What clinical clues differentiate migraine from sinus headaches? Retrieved from
  • ENT Health. . Sinus Headaches.
  • Migraine Symptoms. . Retrieved from
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