Thursday, July 18, 2024

How To Tell A Migraine From A Sinus Headache

Whats The Difference Between A Sinus Headache And A Migraine Headache

How to Tell if You Have a Sinus 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, theyâre 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.

What Is A Migraine Is It Just A Bad Headache

“Headache is a general term for any type of pain in the head,” says Dr. Natbony. “Migraine, however, is more than just a headache. It is a chronic and disabling neurologic disease that affects the way the brain processes pain. We think that migraine is likely genetic, meaning that it runs in families and is inherited. Headache is only one of the many symptoms of migraine. Migraine headache usually presents with moderate to severe pain on one side of the head that is throbbing or pounding, made worse by movement and lasting more than 4 hours. The pain is accompanied by other symptoms including sensitivity to light, sound or smells, nausea, and vomiting. Some people may also see spots or flashing lights in their vision.”

Another sign of a migraine: It’s hard to go about your life. “Typically, a migraine prohibits you from routine activities you want to lie down or rest until the attack goes away and a migraine can last 4 to 72 hours, so its pretty impressive in its ability to do harm,” says Lawrence Newman, M.D., neurologist and director of the Headache Division at NYU Langone Health. Often difficult to prevent and treat, a migraine can make you miss work and other obligations.

Sinus Headache Or Tmj Migraine: How To Tell The Difference

Weve all had bad headaches from time to time. The pain can be so intense that you cant seem to imagine anything worse.

And then you have a migraine episode that seems to take the pain to the next level. In addition to the pounding headache, your cheeks and teeth seem to ache, too.

Unfortunately, some people have headaches like this on a regular basis. Theyve tried to treat it with over-the-counter remedies, but these can just be Band-Aid solutions.

The reason for this is because painkillers arent treating the main source of the problem which could be structural or mechanical.

The above symptoms the pounding head, achy teeth, and tender cheeks arent signs of a typical headache. They could be signs of a sinus headache or a TMJ migraine.

In order to successfully treat the problem, we have to identify the root cause. First we need to discern the difference between these types of head pain.

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What Do Sinus Headaches And Migraine Headaches Have In Common

Despite what OTC sinus product makers tout, âtrueâ sinus headaches are actually quite rare. Migraine and sinus headaches are associated with pain over the forehead and/or cheekbones. They both often are associated with swelling of the nasal membranes. That is why patients may confuse the two. However, there are many differences between sinus and migraine headaches.

Important Facts About Asthma And Migraine

Migraine and Sinus Headache: How to Tell the Difference

The relationship between migraine and asthma is equally confusing. Clearly, there is some overlap in the risk or triggering factors for asthma and migrainefor example, stress and certain environmental triggers or allergens. Often migraine sufferers with asthma report that both asthma and migraine can worsen at the same time, and occasionally one seems to lead to the other. In one study, patients with asthma were 1.5 times more likely to also have migraine.

    Asthma may be triggered by a number of different allergens or environmental triggers that also may lead to other airway conditions such as allergic rhinitis.

  • Airway conditions including asthma, allergic rhinitis, or sinusitis all may be associated with headache.
  • Diagnosing the specific headaches associated with airway conditions is important to ensure that treatment is successful. For example, some over-the-counter allergy medicines may also lead to a worsening of headache in some patients, especially if taken frequently.
  • Asthma may be associated or comorbid with migraine, and a full diagnosis of each condition is needed.
  • Identifying potential triggers for asthma is important for reducing the risk of an attack and the risk of triggering a migraine.

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What Are Sinus Headaches

Real sinus headaches are almost always from a sinus infection. Sinus infections are common with 10% to 30% of the population experiencing at least one sinus infection each year.

Sinus infections are also known as sinusitis or rhinosinusitis. This occurs when the sinus becomes inflamed. Common symptoms include thick nasal mucous, blocked nose and facial pain. Sinus infections may be caused by an infection, allergy or air pollution. Most cases are due to viral infection. Infections are often transmitted through coughing, sneezing, kissing, contact with contaminated surfaces, food or water or contact with infected animals or pets.

To understand how sinus headaches are confused with migraine its important to know what migraine is.

Migraines Can Interrupt Daily Life

While an intense headache is annoying and disruptive, a migraine can interrupt the sufferer’s daily life, incapacitating them and grinding their usual routines to a halt. “With migraine, sufferers may have difficulty performing their regular daily activities and typically prefer to rest in a dark and quiet area,” said Dr. Grosberg.

“This is in contrast to the most common type of ‘regular’ headache that people experience which is tension-type headache. This type of headache can last from 30 minutes to one week and often affects both sides of the head in a ‘band-like’ distribution. The pain may be a pressure or ache, mild to moderate in intensity, and is not associated with light and sound sensitivity or nausea. With tension-type headache, people can often function during their daily activities.”

Morgan furthered, “Many people with migraines cannot function during an episode whereas with other headaches, you can rally and get through your day.”

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How To Tell If You Have A Headache Sinus Pain Or A Migraine

Headaches in any form can be disruptive to our lives, but not all of them are the same.

According to experts, most people dont know the difference between various types of headaches, like sinus headaches and migraines. That can make a painful situation so much worse.

Knowing which issue youre dealing with is vital to treating it. So HuffPost reached out to the experts to help walk you through the differences, dispel some myths and help you learn more about what you may be experiencing. Here are the different types and what you can do about each of them:

Summary Of Sinus Headaches

Headache Treatments : How to Tell if You Have a Sinus Headache

In summary, most sinus headache is migraine with sinus symptoms. Knowing this can help with getting the right diagnosis and treatment. Ultimately, this can help free you from the recurring burden of failed headache treatment and disability.

This article is a legacy contribution from the American Headache Society Committee for Headache Education and the Fred Sheftell, MD Education Center.

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Can A Sinus Headache Cause A Migraine

A common misconception is that sinusitis triggers migraines , but that isnt likely to happen. Sinusitis originates in a different region of the body than migraine and they are not necessarily connected However, the two conditions do share the same nerves that can be stimulated, and they do both produce many of the same chemicals in the body during an attack. There are certain signs that can help distinguish between the two and knowing this can help facilitate appropriate treatment of the condition that is present.

Dr. Ailani explains how easy it can be to mistake a migraine for a sinus headache:

With a sinus infection, you will often have a fever, bright colored mucus from the nose in large amounts, and pain that is worse when you lay down . You may notice the pain is worse in the morning after sleeping for several hours. Occasionally, someone may have a chronic sinus infection, something that has been going on for several months. In this case, a person may not have any symptoms, and may not have a headache either.

If you have a severe headache with sinus type symptoms and also have light or sound sensitivity, upset stomach, lack of appetite, and no fever, and you notice the pain resolves in 4-36 hours- this may be a migraine. If you notice the pain improves when laying in a dark, quiet room, or when taking over the counter pain medication, this again goes along with migraine.

How Does A Doctor Know Whether Its Sinus Or Migraine

Migraine is a clinical diagnosis, says Weber. That means that the doctor will ask you about your family history of migraine, allergies, and any other symptoms to determine if you have migraine or sinus headache.

To help your doctor make the correct diagnosis, it can be really helpful to track what youre experiencing, says Lauren Doyle Strauss, DO, a headache specialist and assistant professor at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Write down your symptoms, says Strauss. Where is the pain located? Are you tired or dizzy? Are you sensitive to light or sound? Do you have an upset stomach or vomiting?

In addition to considering your symptoms, there can be tests used to identify sinus problems. A headache caused by a sinus infection is typically diagnosed with a CT scan of the sinuses, says Weber.

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Treatment For Sinus Headaches

Your urgent care doctor will recommend you take a short course of a decongestant and/or an over-the-counter nasal spray to help reduce nasal membrane swelling. You may take a hot shower to loosen up the secretions and can hydrate with warm liquids. If the symptoms persist for a longer time, consult your walk-in doctor who will prescribe antibiotics.

Migraines Are More Than Just Headaches


Dr. Brian Grosberg, director of the Hartford Healthcare Headache Center and program director of the Headache and Facial Pain Fellowship in the Department of Neurology at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, affirmed to me, “A migraine is more than just a headache.”

How so? In very complex ways, that’s how! “It is a neurological condition with a complex process that begins in the brain and produces many symptoms beyond headache,” Dr. Grosberg stated. “People who have migraine are born with a nervous system that processes information differently than those who do not have migraine. Their brains are ‘more excitable,’ reacting to light and sound and other stimuli at a lower threshold than the brain of someone without migraine.”

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Sinus Headaches Are Often Misdiagnosed Migraines

Dr. Cooper also notes that “most ‘sinus headaches’ that are bad enough to take you to a doctor’s office are actually migraines. They just feel like a sinus headache because of where the pain is and how sick you feel.”

So don’t self-diagnose or misdiagnose your migraine as a sinus headache. The analysis is best left to a professional.

Migraines Are Accompanied By Visual Disturbances

One of the key indicators of a migraine is the additional symptoms besides the debilitating pain, like visual disturbances also known as auras.

“Migraines can come with a variety of other symptoms including aura, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and visual distortions,” said Dr. Khorsandi. Dr. Williams further detailed the auras as “troubles including blurriness, bright/flashing dots, wavy or jagged lines.” I am plagued by auras before the migraine arrives. It’s the disturbance in the force, the calm before the storm, and serves a warning so I can attempt to deal with what’s to come.

Sally Morgan, a holistic physical therapist and certified craniosacral therapist who also suffered from migraines, reminded me of another side effect of migraines that we don’t think of often bumps and bruises. She said, “Visual acuity lessens during migraine attacks and people report walking into a wall or knocking things over accidentally during a headache.” Been there, done that.

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Are Sinus Headache And Migraine Easily Confused

Yes, they are according to the research. The pattern of migraine pain is different for individual patients. While the most easily recognized migraine headaches are localized to one side of the head, many patients feel pain or pressure on both sides, or in the neck or sinuses. This is because all of these areas are innervated by branches of the nerve that are most involved in migraine. For patients with sinus symptoms the most frequent patterns of pain and pressure are across the forehead and behind the eyes, but any sinus area or combination is possible.

A study called SAMS recruited the first 100 people to respond to their local ad. The ad asked those to come forward who believed they had sinus headache. Each participant was carefully examined in a 90-minute evaluation and imaging tests were conducted.

The findings showed that most of them had been wrongly diagnosed and in fact had a diagnosis of migraine.

Are Sinus Headaches And Migraines Related

Sinus Pain or a Migraine?

People who often have allergies with a runny nose are 10 times more likely to have migraines. Asthma and migraine also share some of the same triggers.

So, do sinus and breathing problemscause migraines? Probably not, but it seems these conditions could be related somehow. If you want relief, you’ll need the right diagnosis and, if you have more than one condition, to consider treatment for each separately, even when they’re happening at the same time.

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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.

First What Are Common Types Of Headaches

A sinus headache, as we mentioned above, will happen when you guessed it you have a sinus infection. We’ll got more in-depth about migraines shortly, but two other types of headaches you may have heard about are cluster headaches and tension headaches.

  • Cluster headache: “This is a rare and extremely painful disorder,” says Dr. Natbony. “Pain is severe and is usually one sided and focused around the eye. The pain may be accompanied by a red or teary eye, swollen or drooping eyelid, nasal congestion or a runny nose on one side. Patients are usually restless during the attack, walking around or pacing. Attacks last about 15 minutes to 3 hours and tend to be seasonal in nature. Cluster headaches, like the name implies, typically occur in clusters: They can be present for weeks at a time and then disappear. Some patients have attacks multiple times per year while others can go years between attacks.”

  • Tension headache: “Tension-type headache is everything that migraine is not: It’s usually on both sides of the head, pressing or tightening, mild to moderate in severity, not aggravated by activity, rarely associated with light or sound sensitivity, and there is no nausea or vomiting. Attacks can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 7 days. The most common triggering factor for tension-type headache is stress,” says Dr. Natbony.

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How Do You Treat Migraine Headaches

If you’d like to learn more about migraine treatments and getting advice for your migraine attacks, speak to a licensed Cove doctor today about your migraine history and get a personalized treatment plan.

The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely upon the content provided in this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

What Distinguishes Migraine From A Sinus

Migraines Vs. Sinus Headaches â How to Tell Them Apart

The initial presentation of sinus infection is so similar to migraine that it is often mistakenly diagnosed and treated like just another headache. However, despite overlapping symptoms, differences between the two entities can be distinguished through a careful evaluation.

Migraine is a familiar event, with or without warning symptoms . It may be gradual or abrupt in onset, moderate or severe in intensity, is often accompanied by a sensitivity to light and sound, and by nausea and vomiting. The pain may be one-sided or diffuse, limited to the front, top, or back of the head, and may often reach into the neck. It may hurt in the face area as well. Migraine may be provoked by other illnesses that affect the head or neck, such as a dental problem or respiratory or sinus infection. Migraine often subsides after several hours with the assistance of an effective rescue medication . For most, migraine is a distinct and familiar event with a predictable duration and resolution.

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