Sinus Headaches

Have you ever experienced pain or pressure in your head and sinuses that just won’t go away? You may be experiencing sinus headaches caused by an infection. Anything that causes mucus and pressure to build up in the sinuses can lead to a sinus infection. Some common ways people get sinus headaches are:

  • Colds or seasonal allergies
  • Nasal polyps in the nose or sinuses that can block mucus from draining
  • A deviated septum, which can prevent mucus from properly draining. Too much mucus allows bacteria to grow and as germs build up, they irritate the sinuses. Then, the sinus tissue swells, blocking the passage of mucus. These irritated sinuses filled with liquid or pressure make your face feel tender and achy, causing sinus headaches.

If you have experienced sinus headaches, you are not alone. Between 70 and 80 percent of Americans experience sinus headaches. More than half of the population reports getting a headache at least once a month, 15 percent report getting one headache a week and five percent report daily headaches.

Chronic sinus headaches can have a negative impact on a person’s daily life. Many people experience pain and pressure behind the eyes, cheekbones, forehead and the bridge of the nose, and typically the pain worsens when moving the head suddenly. Sinus headaches can also cause other symptoms like fever, a stuffy or runny nose, and a swollen face. While most headaches are not an indication of a serious or life-threatening illness, they often can be brought on by allergies or sinus infections.

Types of Sinus Headaches

There are several reasons that you may be experiencing sinus pain. Knowing the different types of sinus headaches can help you determine how to best get relief.  

Rhinitis: For those who suffer from allergies, rhinitis (headaches with hay fever) is common and may be brought on by sinus disease in and around the nasal passage.

Sinusitis: Sinusitis can cause headaches in which the sinus becomes inflamed from infection and causes pressure behind the eyes, nose, cheeks and forehead. Acute sinusitis occurs when there is a bacterial infection in one or more of the sinuses in your head.

Migraine: Recent studies show that those who appear to have sinus headaches may suffer from migraines. A migraine is a headache variation often accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. According to the American Migraine Foundation, 50 percent of migraine misdiagnoses start with a person thinking they have a sinus headache.

The body has multiple sinus cavities around the eyes and nose called paranasal sinuses. The sinuses are lined with soft tissue and mucus to help filter air. The paranasal sinuses need to be able to drain freely to function properly. However, irritants such as allergies and infections can cause the nasal passages to become inflamed, causing pain and discomfort. 

There are four major paranasal sinuses: the frontal, maxillary, ethmoid and sphenoid sinuses. The frontal sinuses are located above the bridge of the nose in the forehead above the eyebrows. The maxillary sinuses are the largest sinus cavities located near the cheekbones on the sides of the nose. The ethmoid sinuses are located at the inside corner of each eye and the sphenoid sinuses are located behind the ethmoid sinuses. It can cause a sinus headache when any of these nasal passages become inflamed.

Sinus Headache Symptoms

Sinus headaches can be a symptom of sinus infections, which cause pressure and pain in your face. Additional sinus headache symptoms include:

  • An uncomfortable pain or pressure behind your forehead
  • Pain getting worse when you lean forward
  • Green or yellow nasal discharge
  • Fatigue or aching in your upper teeth
  • Redness and swelling of the cheeks, nose, forehead or facial pain

Often, a sinus headache is actually a migraine with nasal symptoms, talk with your doctor to help you find long-term relief.

Treatments and Relief

If you suspect you may have a sinus infection or sinusitis, consult with your doctor to determine the best course of action. Most sinus infections are easily treated with antibiotics, decongestants or nasal steroids.

A large percentage of people with self-diagnosed sinus headaches suffer from migraines, which is why it is important to see a specialist to receive an accurate diagnosis. Research also supports a correlation between migraines and allergies, so your physician will consider both migraine headaches and sinus headaches if you are experiencing headaches and allergic rhinitis.

Book a Consultation

The best way to get relief from a sinus headache or determine if you are suffering from migraines is to consult an ear, nose and throat physician. ENTs are experts in diagnosing and treating sinus issues. Your doctor may recommend an X-ray, CT scan or nasal endoscopy for chronic cases. This will allow the ENT to determine the root cause of your pain and help ease your sinus headaches.

To meet with our highly-skilled team to discuss your sinus headache symptoms at Sierra Nevada Ear Nose & Throat, please give us a call or schedule an appointment at one of our four locations.