Last Updated on
A sinus headache is a headache that occurs when the sinuses become congested.
The sinuses are the bony, air-filled cavities in the head that connect to the nose through small openings.
During a cold or allergy attack, the openings can become blocked by excess mucus and may become infected.
Anyone who has a cold or prone to allergies may get a sinus headache.
In addition, people who have an injury to the bones in the nose or a deformity of the nose may be at greater risk of getting sinus headaches.
Colds and allergies are the usual causes of a sinus headache. The sinuses become congested and can become infected, a condition called sinusitis.
Sinusitis usually occurs after a cold due to bacteria and viruses infecting the lining of the sinuses.
Additionally, sinus headaches can be caused by an injury to the bones, a deformity of the nose, or any condition that hinders the draining of the sinuses.
Symptoms of a sinus headache include pain or pressure around the eyes, cheeks and forehead; tender skin and bones over and under the eyes; and pain when bending over, during jarring movements or nose blowing.
To diagnose a sinus headache, a doctor will check the patient’s medical history and perform a physical exam.
If sinusitis is suspected, the doctor may confirm diagnosis with an x-ray or a CT scan.
These tests can show if there is swelling or fluid in the sinus tissue.
In some cases, a sinus headache may actually be a migraine headache.
It is important to distinguish between the two, because treatment for each type of headache will vary.
A recent study reveals that only a small percentage of people who think they have sinus headaches actually have one; in most cases it is a migraine.
A migraine headache treated with a migraine-specific medication will more quickly relieve the headache pain and symptoms.
A sinus headache may be treated with aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen to temporarily relieve pain.
The doctor may also prescribe a decongestant if the sinuses are blocked.
If the patient also has sinusitis, the doctor may prescribe an antibiotic.
In addition, the doctor may recommend antihistamines if allergies are the cause of sinusitis.
A sinus headache should disappear once the sinuses are clear, but some patients may need additional treatments.
A sinus headache should be relieved by medication in about three to five days.
If the patient still has a headache, or has an oral temperature above 102 degrees F (38.9 degrees C), bleeding from the nose, increased swelling over the forehead, eyes, nose, or cheek, blurred or double vision, or balance problems, they should see their doctor again.
Sinus headaches can be prevented by treating underlying problems such as allergies and treating headaches promptly.
In addition, using oral or nasal decongestants before flying, traveling to high altitudes, or swimming in deep water may help.
Using a humidifier in the home if the air is particularly dry may also help prevent sinus headaches.