Symptoms Of A Migraine
Migraines can vary from person to person and even from attack to attack. There are a wide range of migraine symptoms, but the most common include:
- Head pain, often over one eye or on one or both sides
- Sensitivity to light
- Ear pain
To further compound the confusion between these two conditions, even treatment options are similar. Many people are very surprised to discover that sinus medications and treatments relieve their migraine pain. Dr. Ailani explains:
Migraine can improve when using products like Sudafed or Advil cold/sinus. These medications work to reduce some of the chemicals that are elevated during a migraine, so dont be fooled into thinking that if you feel better with Sudafed, it is a sinus issue. Overuse of these medications can lead to more headaches, so if you find yourself using these medications more than 2-3 days a week, seek medical attention for an appropriate diagnosis.
A diagnosis of either a migraine or a sinus headache is the first step in finding treatment that works.
How To Prevent A Sinus Headache
Once you learn whats causing your headache, you can take the steps to prevent them in the future. If the inflammation comes because you have allergies, then identifying what you are allergic to and implementing reduction strategies can be helpful, Dr. Epstein states.
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First, avoid environmental triggers. Since seasonal allergies are a common cause of sinus headaches, its wise to limit your time outdoorsat least until your symptoms start improving.
Avoid irritants such as strong perfumes/colognes and smoke that trigger inflammation of nasal mucosa and secretion of mucus, says Dr. Nicole Aaronson, MD, pediatric otolaryngologist. Keep the nasal passages moist with nasal saline spray and/or a humidifier. If there are underlying allergies, treat the allergies or avoid allergens when possible. Maintain good hydration to prevent nasal congestion.
To minimize the chances of getting a headache in the midst of allergy or cold season, Dr. Stephenson recommends avoiding the following:
- Vacuuming daily during allergy season to minimize indoor allergens.
- Change bed sheets every few days, to minimize allergens.
- Use an indoor air purifier and clean the filter regularly.
- Stay hydrated.
- Avoid alcohol when congested, which can trigger more pressure.
- Avoid flying, as that can also increase sinus pressure and trigger a headache.
- Use a humidifier at night, but keep it squeaky-clean, to avoid mold.
- When you have a cold, use a neti pot daily.
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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Which Sinus Headache Medicine Should I Use
If you notice pain or pressure behind your eyes around your sinuses, you may be suffering from a sinus headache. Frequent sinus headaches are certainly a cause for concern, and if you find yourself constantly congested, you should visit an ENT to discover the real root of the problem.
However, in the meantime, you can turn to over-the-counter drugs for a bit of temporary relief. Below, well discuss the three common types of sinus headache medicine and how they can help.
How Long Does A Sinus Headache Last And Do Sinus Headaches Go Away On Their Own
Sinus headaches caused by sinus infections can last up to two weeks or more, depending on the severity of your sinus infection. Although some sinus infections go away on their own, leaving a sinus infection untreated comes with potential complications, including the spread of the infection, loss of smell, and in extreme cases, meningitis and brain abscess.
Sinus Headaches Vs Migraines
Placing a warm, damp washcloth over your forehead may help soothe a sinus headache.
Sinus headaches are often confused with migraines. It is easy to confuse the two as the migraine headache is a result of the activation of the trigeminal nerves that stimulate the sinus regions as well as the meninges encasing the brain. As such, it is very difficult to determine exactly where the original pain is extending from. To confuse matters even further, a migraine headache will often cause a runny nose and eye tearing, so the symptoms often look very similar. Patients with complaints of sinus headaches often reported treatments such as decongestants and/or antibiotics being ineffectual while treatment with migraine medications result in relief. However, patients with migraines do not report the thick, greenish nasal discharge which is typically seen with true sinus infection .
According to the 2007 edition of the Clinical Practice Guideline: adult sinusitis, with sinusitis symptoms lasting less than 7 days, is assumed to be viral in nature, while symptoms lasting more than 10 days are assumed to be bacterial acute sinusitis. Learn more about Viral vs. Bacterial sinus infections.
What Tests Diagnose The Causes Of A Sinus Headache
The health-care professional will likely begin by taking a history of the symptoms to help come to the diagnosis. Contributing factors in the development of sinusitis and headache may include a recent cold or upper respiratory tract infection, history of smoking, environmental allergies to dust or molds, as well as recent airplane travel, swimming or SCUBA diving, or other activities involving air pressure changes within the facial sinuses.
Physical examination may reveal tenderness to percussion, or tapping, over the affected sinus that reproduces the pain. Examination of the ears may reveal a serous otitis, or fluid levels behind the eardrum in the middle ear, that may suggest drainage problems in the face and sinuses. Examination of the nose may reveal swollen nasal passages and discharge. Evaluation of the mouth and teeth may find a source of infection, and the back of the throat may be examined for signs of postnasal drainage.
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When To See A Doctor For Sinus Pain
If your sinus symptoms are not getting better with at-home treatments, and if your sinus symptoms last longer than seven to 10 days, you should see a doctor for treatment. Allina Health has many convenient care options for care, from online visits to walk-in care, to help you get better fast.
If you have frequent or reoccurring sinus infections, you may want to see an ear, nose and throat for your treatment options.
How You Can Treat Sinusitis Yourself
You can often treat mild sinusitis without seeing a GP by:
- getting plenty of rest
- taking painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen
- avoiding allergic triggers and not smoking
- cleaning your nose with a salt water solution to ease congestion
You do not need to use all of the solution, but make a fresh solution each time you clean your nose.
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Untreated Sinus Infection Risks
Sinus infections often start to improve on their own after about 10 days. If your symptoms last longer without improving or if they worsen, a doctor may need to treat the underlying cause of the infection.
If a sinus infection affects a sinus cavity close to the brain, it can spread to the brain if left untreated. Though rare, an infection can also pass into the eye socket and cause vision changes or blindness. These types of infections are more common in kids.
While uncommon, a serious fungal sinus infection left untreated may pass into the bones.
Make an appointment with a doctor if you have severe symptoms, or if the following symptoms last longer than 10 days or keep coming back:
- facial pain
Because the cause of your sinus infection can affect your treatment options, its important to see a doctor for a diagnosis. The Healthline FindCare tool can provide options in your area if youre looking for a doctor.
If you believe you have chronic or recurring sinusitis, consider asking for a referral to an otolaryngologist, also known as an ear, nose, and throat specialist. You may need imaging and other tests to determine the cause of your symptoms.
An ENT specialist can take a culture of nose drainage to better understand the cause of an infection. The ENT specialist can also examine the sinuses more closely and look for any problem in the structure of the nasal passages that could lead to chronic sinus problems.
Pain Or Pressure In Your Sinuses
Facial pain is a common symptom of sinusitis. You have several different sinuses above and below your eyes, as well as behind your nose. Any of these air-filled cavities can hurt when you have a sinus infection.
Inflammation and swelling can cause your sinuses to ache with dull pressure. This is because inflammation may alter the typical path of mucus from the nose to the back of the throat.
You may feel pain in:
- your forehead
- on either side of your nose
- in your upper jaws and teeth
- between your eyes
This may lead to a headache. Headaches caused by sinus infections can occur where the sinuses are or in other places.
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Is There Really A Sinus Migraine
Technically, the answer is no. There are migraines and there are sinus headaches. They are not the same, but some people have coined the phrase sinus migraine to make the distinction that their migraines seem to have a sinus component. They may be familiar enough with migraines that they know the typical symptoms, so they rule it out because their headaches dont fit that mold. The truth is, there are many different types of migraines and headaches and they often have very similar, if not identical, symptoms.
Dr. Ailani explains, Migraine pain can be located in the temples or back of the head, but often is in or around the eye and can, on occasion, be located under the eye, around the nose, and into the jaw. The reason for this is that the nerve that causes facial sensation and sinus sensation and the one that also causes facial and sinus pain, are one and the same, the trigeminal nerve.
She continues, When this nerve is turned on, you can experience pain- which can be all different types such as pulsating, throbbing, pressure, searing, jabbing, tingling, and burning, anywhere in your head and face. This nerve also connects to other nerves at the back of the neck and in the sinuses. When one nerve decides to be turned on, other connected nerves can follow- where there is a party, all like to join in!
Alternate Hot And Cold Compresses
“Reclining with a hot washcloth over your eyes and nose can help warm the nasal passages and loosen secretions,” says Das. You can also alternate warm and cold compresses to relieve sinus pain and sinus pressure. Heres how to do it: Start by placing a hot towel or washcloth across your sinuses for about three minutes. Then place a cold compress across your sinuses for 30 seconds. Alternate two more times, and repeat the treatment about four times a day.
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Treatment For Sinusitis And Sinus Headaches
Some aspects of the treatment for sinusitis and sinus headache are not all that different from migraine treatments. The treatment goals are:
- To reduce inflammation
- To facilitate drainage of the nasal passages
- To identify any underlying causes and eliminate them
- In the case of chronic sinusitis, reduce the number of attacks or flare-ups
These are very similar to migraine treatment goals: reduce the pain of the attack, facilitate the treatment of comorbidities or symptoms that compound the discomfort, identify any triggers and eliminate them, and in the case of chronic migraine, reduce the number of attacks.
Sinusitis treatments include a combination of symptom relief and addressing the cause. They may include:
- Oral, nasal, or injected corticosteroids
- Saline nasal irrigation
- Acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever and pain
- Environmental changes such as a humidifier or dehumidifier in the home
In cases where a sinus migraine or sinus headache is present, treating the symptoms and condition will usually relieve the headache.
Can Sinus Headaches Be Prevented
Sinus headaches are due to inflammation of the sinuses and their ability to drain to the back of the nose.
- Avoid smoking, secondhand smoke, and other allergens because they may decrease the risk of developing sinusitis and a sinus headache. Smoking reduces the ability of the sinuses to clear mucous and fluid.
- Avoid colds and other respiratory infections because it may decrease the risk of sinus inflammation, for example, frequent hand washing, and avoiding people who are sick.
- Flying is not recommended if you have a cold, sinus infection, or an upper respiratory infection because of the pressure changes in the face that occur with flying.
- Maintaining adequate hydration and breathing humidified air at home and work will allow the normal mucus that is produced in the sinuses to drain more easily.
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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
What To Do For Severe Sinus Pain
The paranasal sinuses are a set of four hollow areas, which surround the nasal cavity. The true purpose of these sinuses is still debated, and it is possible that they really serve no biological function at all. However, being joined by a small area known as the ostia, these sinus areas can become easily blocked by allergic inflammation or by nasal lining swelling which occurs during a cold or flu. Knowing the options and what to do for severe sinus pain can quickly alleviate pain and discomfort. When this occurs, the normal process of mucus drainage can be disrupted resulting in a condition known as sinusitis. Another condition which may effect the sinus cavity areas is an infection of the posterior teeth, since they are close to the maxillary sinus.
Inflammation of the four sinus cavities depicted in the above diagram is the root cause of sinusitis.
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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.
Can A Sinus Headache Be Prevented
- Good handwashing and hygienic practices can help prevent colds and upper respiratory infections.
- Smoking cessation can also decrease your risk of airway infections.
- For people with allergies, avoid allergic triggers to help prevent sinus infections.
- Keep the body well hydrated and humidify the air since these can help promote efficient drainage of fluids from the sinuses.
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