Sinus headaches are headaches that may accompany sinusitis, a condition in which the membranes lining your sinuses become swollen and inflamed. You may feel pressure around your eyes, cheeks and forehead. Perhaps your head throbs.
Many people who assume they have sinus headaches, including many who have received a diagnosis of sinus headaches, actually have migraines or tension headaches.
When sinus headaches caused by sinusitis do occur, proper diagnosis and treatment are the keys to relief.
Sinus headache signs and symptoms may include:
Sinus headache or migraine?
As with sinus headaches, migraine pain often gets worse when you bend forward, and migraines can be accompanied by various nasal signs and symptoms — including congestion, facial pressure and a clear, watery nasal discharge. In fact, studies have shown that approximately 90 percent of people who see a doctor for sinus headaches are found to have migraines instead.
Sinus headaches, however, usually aren't associated with nausea or vomiting or aggravated by noise or bright light — all common features of migraines.
When to see a doctor
Sinus headaches accompany sinusitis, a condition in which the membranes lining your sinuses become swollen and inflamed. Sinusitis can be caused by colds, bacterial or fungal infections, an impaired immune system, or structural problems in the nasal cavity. The resulting pressure changes in the sinuses can trigger headaches.
Sinusitis can affect anyone. You may be more likely to develop chronic sinusitis if you have:
Preparing for your appointment
You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. You may be referred to an ear, nose and throat doctor (otolaryngologist). Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment and to know what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Preparing questions will help you make the most of your time with your doctor. For sinus headaches, some basic questions to ask include:
Don't hesitate to ask any other questions you have.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
The cause of headaches can be difficult to determine. The doctor will question you about your headaches and do a physical exam. Be sure to mention if you've had a recent cold, if you have allergies and if you smoke, which may contribute to acute sinusitis.
Your doctor may perform one of these tests to determine if you have sinusitis:
Treatments and drugs
If you're diagnosed with sinusitis, your doctor may recommend:
To reduce the risk of sinusitis, keep your sinuses healthy.
Last Updated: 2012-04-26
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