When To Seek Medical Care
For people with known allergic triggers to sinus headaches, management is often possible without routine medical care simply by relieving symptoms with over-the-counter medications and, when possible, avoiding what causes the allergies.Call your doctor if:
- You have head pain over your sinus and develop a fever, or you have a problem with your immune system.
- You symptoms are worsening in ways not experienced before.
- You develop new symptoms not typical of prior headache.
- A particularly severe headache occurs.
- Alteration or loss of consciousness occurs.
- Headache persists longer than 56 days, particularly with symptoms that are worsening.
- Current therapies/treatments are not working.
- Fever and neck pain or stiffness are present.
- Headache symptoms interfere with activities of daily living .
- You suspect an infection.
What Is A Sinus Headache
If the linings of the ducts or tubes that connect the sinuses to the back of the nose become inflamed, the sinuses may not be able to drain normally, and pressure may build up within the blocked sinus. There may also be associated swelling and inflammation of the lining of the sinuses, resulting in increased mucus and fluid secretion. This increase in fluid combined with the inability to drain increases pressure within the sinus cavity, causing the pain of a sinus headache. The term sinusitis is used to describe inflammation of the sinus.
Sinus Headache Definition And Facts
- Sinuses in the face are air the spaces that develop from the nasal passages and help with air humidification and mucus secretion.
- Inflammation of the sinuses may decrease the ability for the mucus to drain, increasing pressure within the sinuses, which can cause a sinus headache. Common causes of inflammation include allergies, infections, or colds.
- Symptoms of a sinus headache include pain in the face that may worsen with bending down or straining
- pain that radiates to the forehead, temple, or cheek
- runny or stuffy nose
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How Does A Sinus Headache Differ From A Migraine
Its easy to confuse sinus headaches and migraines. In fact, some people think that they have a sinus headache when they are actually experiencing a migraine. You might talk to a doctor about migraine treatment, then find out that the sinuses are actually the root cause.
The best way to determine whether you have a migraine or sinus infection is by paying attention to the way your sinuses are responding. When congestion and nasal issues occur with the pain, its a good indication that treating the sinuses will clear up the headache.
On the other hand, migraines are often associated with other symptoms that arent common for sinus headaches: dizziness, vomiting, nausea, and sensitivity to sound and light. When these symptoms are present, you are likely having a migraine attack, not a sinus headache.
Is It Possible To Have A Sinus Headache Without Congestion
If you arent experiencing sinus congestion with your headache symptoms, its unlikely that you have a sinus headache. Without congestion, the pain in your face and head area is likely caused by either a tension headache or a migraine.
Also, notice how your symptoms change depending on the position of your head. When you lay down or lean forward to pick something up, do you experience an increase in pressure and pain? This is because nasal congestion makes the pressure feel stronger when you are leaning down.
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Sinus Migraine: When Sinus Pain Is More Than A Headache
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.
Cleaning The Nose With Salt Water
A 2019 review found some indication that saltwater solutions can treat sinusitis. However, the researchers state that there was not enough evidence to confirm it helps or the best delivery method.
People can purchase nasal rinsing kits with premixed saltwater solutions. Alternatively, they can make the solution at home. To do this:
People should dispose of any leftover salt water, and make a fresh solution if using this technique repeatedly. A person should also clean any nasal irrigation devices thoroughly after each use. People should not use nasal rinses in children unless instructed by a doctor.
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Migraine Vs Sinus Headache
It isnt always easy to tell the difference between a migraine and a headache, much less a sinus headache, but each condition does have its own set of specific symptoms. While some are shared, others are very distinct to the condition. This creates a strong case for keeping a migraine diary and documenting the details of and surrounding your headaches.
According to Dr. Ailani, the symptoms of migraine and sinus headache are similar because of the region of the brain that is activated during an attack:
Migraine can also have associated symptoms, symptoms that come WITH the headache pain that can be confused for a sinus or allergy problem. You can have a runny nose, watery eyes, your eyes can turn red. These symptoms, called autonomic symptoms, come on because of the area in the brain, the hypothalamus, that gets turned on during migraine.
Following this section are common symptoms for migraines as well as sinus migraine, sinus headaches and sinusitis. As you can see, many of them are identical or nearly identical. Its no wonder that patients struggle to describe their head pain and doctors struggle to diagnose it. The problem is, without a proper diagnosis you cant get proper treatment. If you are diagnosed with sinus headaches but you actually have migraines, it could delay your migraine treatment for years.
How Do I Know If My Headache Is Migraine Or Sinus Headache
So, how do you know if your headache is migraine and not sinus? Go beyond the nasal and sinus congestion and the facial pain and pressure look for a headache associated with the inability to function normally at work, school, home or social functions, nausea, sensitivity to light and triggers such as weather change, menstrual cycle, and stress . Significantly, it is commonly thought that weather change often causes sinus headache when weather change is a common trigger for migraine.
You can also ask yourself the following questions from the ID Migraine Questionnaire developed by Dr. Richard Lipton of Albert Einstein College of Medicine:
- In the past three months, how disabling are your headaches? Do they interfere with your ability to function?
- Do you ever feel nausea when you have a headache?
- Do you become sensitive to light while you have a headache?
If you answer yes to two of the above three criteria, migraine is likely 93% of the time. If you answer yes to all three, a migraine diagnosis is 98% likely.
The American Migraine Foundation is committed to improving the lives of those living with this debilitating disease. For more of the latest news and information on migraine, visit the AMF Resource Library. For help finding a healthcare provider, check out our Find a Doctor tool. Together, we are as relentless as migraine.
Get Sinus Pain Treatment Online
While at-home treatments can help provide temporary relief and ease discomfort, it is important to talk to your doctor to get an official diagnosis and appropriate treatment for your sinus pain. Fortunately, you do not have to leave home to visit your doctors office.
At PlushCare, you can schedule a phone or video appointment with a licensed medical doctor from the comfort of your own home. Depending on your symptoms and medical history, your doctor may send an electronic prescription to your local pharmacy to treat your sinus infection.
If you are experiencing sinus pain, book an appointment with a PlushCare physician and get a prescription today!
Can Sinus Pressure Cause Migraines
Sinus headaches and migraines are often commonly confused, but its important to know which type of headache you have since that affects the type of treatment you need.
In this blog, Dr. Cecil Yeung of Houston Sinus Surgery at the Yeung Institute explains more about sinus headaches and migraines, including whether sinus pressure can cause migraines.
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Can Sinus Pressure Cause A Migraine
Sinus headaches and migraines have many symptoms in common, but theyre not the same type of headache. Once the underlying sinus issue is resolved, sinus headaches should go away. But with migraines, ongoing medication may be needed to help prevent them from recurring.
Sinus pressure may be somewhat linked to migraines, however. If you have allergic rhinitis, your nasal passages can become inflamed and irritated in response to an allergen. Its thought that the histamine release that occurs as part of the allergic reaction can cause migraines. In fact, people who have allergic rhinitis are more than 10 times more likely to suffer from migraines.
Will Surgery Cure Sinus Infections And Inflammation
If the sinus headache persists, and repeated courses of treatment fail to relieve the sinusitis, surgery may be an option. Otorhinolaryngologists may be able to widen the openings that allow the sinuses to drain and decrease the risk of recurrent inflammation that may obstruct the sinuses from draining.
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What Home Remedies Help Soothe Sinus Headache Symptoms
There are a number of self-care measures available to help decrease sinus congestion and promote drainage of the sinuses, providing relief for sinus headache.
- Drink plenty of fluids to help you stay hydrated.
- Breathe humidified air.
- OTC pain medicationssuch as acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help control pain.
- such as pseudoephedrine may be useful in promoting drainage of the sinuses. People with high blood pressure or heart conditions should check with their healthcare practitioner before using these medications. A number of over-the-counter decongestant medications are available, either singly or in combination with antihistamines, pain relievers, and/or anti-inflammatory medications.
- are also available that contain decongestant medications, but these should not be used for more than three days, due to the possibility of rebound inflammation, a worsening of the condition once use of the spray has stopped.
- Inhaled steroid preparations are sometimes prescribed to treat allergic sinusitis, and bacterial infections of the sinuses are treated with antibiotics.
- Antihistamines may be useful if allergies such as hay fever are the cause of congestion.
Common Questions About Sinus Headaches
How can you tell the difference between a sinus headache and a migraine?
A few things to look out for with a sinus headache include yellow mucus drainage, bad breath and a fever. A migraine would more likely lead to clear nasal drainage, nausea, plus sensitivity to light.
Can you have a sinus headache without congestion?
If you are not congested, it is unlikely that you have a sinus headache. A buildup of mucus in the sinuses is a primary cause of a sinus headache, so you should expect to feel congested.
Sinus Headache Relief Is Available
If you or your child suffer from sinus headaches, Chacko Allergy, Asthma and Sinus Center is here to diagnose the problem and offer the solutions you are most comfortable with.
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What Is Sinus Headache
A true sinus headache, called rhinosinusitis, is rare. The cause is a viral or bacterial sinus infection characterized by thick, discolored nasal discharge. Youll get symptoms like possibly weaker smell or no smell, facial pain or pressure and commonly, fever. Facial pain and headache should resolve within seven days after viral symptoms improve or after successful treatment with antibiotics . If pain continues, then your diagnosis should be reconsidered.
What Are The Causes And Triggers Of Sinus Headaches
Sinus headaches are most often a symptom of sinusitis, in which the sinus becomes inflamed from allergies or other triggers like an infection. Sinus headaches may also result from seasonal allergies that last an extended period of time. This is called rhinitis, or hay fever. Sinus infections and sinus blockages can also trigger sinus headaches.
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Where Are The Sinuses Located
The sinuses are named according to their location in the skull bones:
- The frontal sinuses are located over the forehead, above the eyes on both sides.
- The maxillary sinuses are located over the cheek area, in the bone known as the maxilla, located under the eyes on both sides of the face.
- The ethmoid sinuses are located in the bone that divides the eyes and nose.
- The sphenoid sinuses are located in the sphenoid bone at the center of the skull, behind the eyes.
The sinuses are lined by mucous membranes that secrete fluid and are connected to the nasal cavity by small channels or ducts. The sinuses are sometimes collectively referred to as the paranasal sinuses because of their proximity to the nose.
Inflammation due to any cause can cause a buildup of fluid and increased sinus pressure, causing the typical symptoms of a sinus headache.
Can Allergies Cause A Sinus Headache
Headache is not a very common symptom, in and of itself, of seasonal allergies or allergic rhinitis, says Katherine Hamilton, MD, an assistant professor of clinical neurology and a headache specialist at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia.
With allergies, its much more common to have symptoms such as nasal congestion, like a stuffy nose or runny nose, and eye-watering, she says.
But allergies, or allergic rhinitis, can increase your risk of a sinus infection, according to the CDC. One indication of whether you have allergies or sinusitis is your nasal discharge: In allergies its normally thin and clear, whereas in a sinus infection the mucus is yellow or green and thick, according to the Mayo Clinic.
If you do have a headache that persists, it may not be just allergies, but rather an indication that you have migraine, says Dr. Hamilton.
Typically, headache can be due to a sinus infection or viral or bacterial infection, but it’s rare to have a significant headache from just allergy symptoms, she says.
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Types Of Sinus Infections: Chronic Vs Acute
There are four types of sinus infections. These classifications depend on the length and frequency of the infection:
- Acute sinusitis.This type of sinus infection lasts only for a short time, defined by the American Academy of Otolaryngology as less than 4 weeks. This short-term infection is usually part of a cold or other respiratory illness. It may also be caused by a bacterial infection .
- Subacute sinusitis. A subacute sinus infection lasts between 4 and 12 weeks .
- Recurrent acute sinusitis. An acute sinus infection is considered recurrent if the infection returns four or more times within a year, with each infection lasting 7 days or more.
- Chronic sinusitis.Chronic sinus infections last for more than 12 weeks or continue to recur.
Many sinus infection symptoms are common in both acute and chronic forms. Seeing a doctor is the best way to learn if you have an infection, find the cause, and get treatment.
For cases of acute bacterial sinus infections, these symptoms last at least 10 days without improving, or they worsen within 10 days after seeming to improve. In this case, its important to talk with a doctor, such as a general practitioner or an ear, nose, and throat doctor , to get a diagnosis and treatment plan.
Learn more about the symptoms of a sinus infection below.
Concussion Not Needing Imaging
A traumatic brain injury , or concussion, happens when a bump, blow, jolt, or other head injury causes damage to the brain. Every year, millions of people in the U.S. suffer brain injuries. More than half are bad enough that people must go to the hospital, and the worst injuries can lead to permanent brain damage or death.
Top Symptoms: dizziness, irritability, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, trouble sleeping
Symptoms that always occur with concussion not needing imaging: head or face injury
Symptoms that never occur with concussion not needing imaging: recent fall from 6 feet or higher, severe vomiting, posttraumatic amnesia over 30 minutes, slurred speech, fainting, moderate vomiting
Urgency: Primary care doctor
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