Sinus Headaches

Sinus headaches are pain that can feel like an infection in the sinus cavities (sinus infections are also called sinusitis). With a sinus headache, you might experience pressure around the eyes, cheeks, and forehead and your head may even throb.

It is not uncommon for many people to feel their headache is caused by a sinus infection, but it is actually a migraine. Some people have even been misdiagnosed with sinusitis when they really have a migraine.

Common Symptoms of Sinus Headaches

  • Pain, pressure, and slight swelling or fullness in your cheeks, brow, and forehead
  • Pain intensifies when you lean forward/bend forward, or lie down
  • Nose is stuffy
  • Tiredness/fatigue
  • An ache in the upper teeth

Sometimes a sinus headache can also give you a feeling of fatigue or an aching in your top jaw. Redness and swelling of the cheeks, nose, or forehead can occur.

Determining if Your Pain is Sinusitis or a Migraine

Migraines and headaches caused by sinusitis are very easy to mix up with one another as the symptoms are very close to each other and some are even the same.

Both ailments commonly intensify in pain when bending forward. Migraine, like sinusitis, can also bring on nasal symptoms including: congestion, facial pressure, as well as a clear watery nasal discharge. The reason migraines bring about a series of symptoms in the nasal area has to do with the involvement of the autonomic nervous system during a migraine. Studies have shown that about 90% of patients seeking medical attention for sinus headache actually have a migraine.

There are some symptoms of migraine that are not shared with sinusitis, such as: nausea, vomiting, and heightened pain with noise and bright light.

Sinusitis is most often a result of (or occurs after) a viral upper respiratory infection or a cold and includes thick discolored (usually green or yellow) nasal mucous, none or a decreased sense of smell, and pain in just one cheek or the upper teeth. Headaches as a result of sinusitis will last several days while the infection is present and migraines commonly only last hours to a few days.

Sinus Headaches are Most Likely to Occur In:

– Anyone with a previous history of migraine or headache
– Anyone with a family history of migraines or headaches
– Anyone experiencing hormonal changes associated with headaches

How are sinus headaches prevented?

You Should See a Doctor If:

  • The symptoms of the headache have lasted more than 15 days in a month or have led to you using over the counter pain relief on a frequent basis
  • Your headache pain does not subside to a manageable level with over the counter pain medication
  • The headache is so severe it causes you to miss out on important life events regularly or they seem to impact your daily life quality

How are sinus headaches prevented?

Prevention Tips:

A few lifestyle changes can help to reduce the number of headaches that you have and/or their severity. Changes like:

  • Avoiding any possible triggers: if a food or certain smell seems to have brought on a headache in the past, avoid it. A doctor may recommend reducing caffeine and alcohol intake and abstaining from tobacco use.
  • Exercise: regular aerobic activities reduce tension and help to prevent headaches for many people. Always check with a physician before starting an exercise program. Choose something you enjoy and discuss the details of adding something like walking, swimming, cycling, dancing, etc. Into your daily routine. Obesity has also been found to cause headaches so exercise can help get a person back to a healthy weight.
  • Reduce the Effects of Estrogen: If you are female and suffer from headaches, they may be triggered by hormones. Your doctor can help you to determine this and advise a plan to limit estrogen, like reducing medications that contain estrogen.


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