What are sinus headaches?
Sinus headaches are headaches that may feel like an infection in the sinuses (sinusitis). You may feel pressure around your eyes, cheeks and forehead. Perhaps your head throbs.
However, many people who assume they have headaches from sinusitis, including many who have received such a diagnosis, actually have migraines or tension headaches.
How common are sinus headaches?
Sinus headaches are an uncommon type of headache caused by inflamed sinuses (sinusitis). Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of sinus headaches?
The common symptoms of sinus headaches are:
- Pain, pressure and fullness in your cheeks, brow or forehead
- Worsening pain if you bend forward or lie down
- Stuffy nose
- Achy feeling in your upper teeth
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:
- Your headache symptoms occur more than 15 days a month or require frequent over-the-counter pain medicine
- You have a severe headache, and over-the-counter pain medicine doesn’t help
- You miss school or work because of frequent headaches or the headaches interfere with your daily life
What causes sinus headaches?
Sinus headaches are usually associated with migraines or other forms of headaches.
Sinus headaches are associated with pain and pressure in the face and sinuses and can cause nasal symptoms. Most of these headaches are not caused by sinus infections and should not be treated with antibiotics.
What increases my risk for sinus headaches?
There are many risk factors for sinus headaches, such as:
- A previous history of migraines or headaches
- A family history of migraines or headaches
- Hormonal changes associated with headaches
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How are sinus headaches diagnosed?
The cause of headaches can be difficult to determine. The doctor will question you about your headaches and do a physical exam.
Your doctor may perform imaging tests to help determine the cause of your headache, including:
- CT scan. CT scans use a computer to create cross-sectional images of your brain and head (including your sinuses) by combining images from an X-ray unit that rotates around your body.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). With MRIs, a magnetic field and radio waves are used to create cross-sectional images of the structures within your brain.
How are sinus headaches treated?
Most people who assume they have sinusitis actually have migraines or tension-type headaches.
Migraines and chronic or recurrent headaches may be treated with prescription medication that is either taken every day to reduce or prevent headaches or taken at the onset of a headache to prevent it from getting worse.
To treat these types of headaches, your doctor may recommend:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers. Migraines and other types of headaches may be treated with over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), naproxen sodium (Aleve) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB).
- Many people with migraine attacks use triptans to relieve pain. Triptans work by promoting constriction of blood vessels and blocking pain pathways in the brain.Medications include sumatriptan (Imitrex), rizatriptan (Maxalt), almotriptan (Axert), naratriptan (Amerge), zolmitriptan (Zomig), frovatriptan (Frova) and eletriptan (Relpax). Some triptans are available as nasal sprays and injections, in addition to tablets. A single-tablet combination of sumatriptan and naproxen sodium (Treximet) has proved to be more effective in relieving migraine symptoms than either medication on its own.
- Ergotamine and caffeine combination drugs (Migergot, Cafergot) are less effective than triptans. Ergots seem most effective in those whose pain lasts for more than 72 hours.Ergotamine may cause worsened nausea and vomiting related to your migraines and other side effects, and it may also lead to medication-overuse headaches. Dihydroergotamine (D.H.E. 45, Migranal) is an ergot derivative that is more effective and has fewer side effects than ergotamine. It’s available as a nasal spray and in injection form. This medication may cause fewer side effects than ergotamine and is less likely to lead to medication-overuse headaches.
- Anti-nausea medications. Because migraines are often accompanied by nausea, with or without vomiting, medication for nausea is appropriate and is usually combined with other medications. Frequently prescribed medications are chlorpromazine, metoclopramide (Reglan) or prochlorperazine (Compro).
- Glucocorticoids (dexamethasone). A glucocorticoid may be used in conjunction with other medications to improve pain relief. Because of the risk of steroid toxicity, glucocorticoids shouldn’t be used frequently.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage sinus headaches?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with sinus headaches:
- Avoid triggers. If certain foods or odors seem to have triggered your headaches in the past, avoid them. Your doctor may recommend you reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake and avoid tobacco.In general, establish a daily routine with regular sleep patterns and regular meals. In addition, try to control stress.
- Exercise regularly. Regular aerobic exercise reduces tension and can help prevent headaches. If your doctor agrees, choose any aerobic exercise you enjoy, including walking, swimming and cycling.Warm up slowly, however, because sudden, intense exercise can cause headaches. Obesity is also thought to be a factor in headaches, and regular exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight or lose weight.
- Reduce the effects of estrogen. If you’re a woman who has headaches and estrogen seems to trigger or make your headaches worse, you may want to avoid or reduce the medications you take that contain estrogen.These medications include birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy. Talk with your doctor about the appropriate alternatives or dosages for you.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Sinus headaches. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sinus-headaches/basics/definition/con-20025426. Accessed July 28, 2017.
Sinus headache. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sinus-headache/Pages/Introduction.aspx. Accessed July 28, 2017.
Sinus Headaches. http://www.webmd.com/migraines-headaches/guide/sinus-headaches#2. Accessed July 28, 2017.
Review Date: July 31, 2017 | Last Modified: July 31, 2017