Lots of people blame their headaches on sinus pain and congestion– but generally, it’s simply a regular old headache. Do you know how to inform if your pain really signals a sinus headache?
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How Does a Sinus Headache Make You Feel?
It’s an unusual incident that a sinus headache is accurately self-diagnosed. Even when you have sinus pain and nasal blockage with your headache, you shouldn’t instantly reach for sinus pain medication– there’s a great chance it won’t help.
“Sinus headache is practically a meaningless term,” says Martin Citardi, MD, chairman of the department of otolaryngology and head and neck surgery at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston. “About 80 to 90 percent of headache cases sent out to our ear, nose, and throat center for sinus headache evaluation turn out to be migraine headache.”
Stress, migraine headache, and other headache syndromes are typically puzzled with sinus headaches, adds Mark A. Zacharek, MD, residency program director for the department of otolaryngology and head and neck surgery at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
So how can you difference? Here are the facts about types of headaches unassociated to sinus problems:
- Stress headaches. These are the most typical type of headache. About 80 to 90 percent of people are affected by tension headaches eventually. Tension headaches are more typical in women and are caused by muscle tightness. You may feel the pain of a tension headache in your head or in your neck. Muscle tightness can be caused by stress or by holding your head in an abnormal position for too long.
- Migraine headaches. Migraines occur in about 17 percent of the population and are also more typical in women. “Migraine headaches typically tend to be one-sided and associated with light sensitivity. Migraines are more severe than sinus headaches and symptoms might include nausea and vomiting,” states Dr. Zacharek. Migraine headache pain is felt as a throbbing pain and has the tendency to become worse with activity.
- Less typical types of headaches. Cluster headaches influence less than one percent of the population and cause a very severe one-sided headache that is more common in men and occurs in cycles. Also, “If a headache is the ‘most severe headache’ that a patient has ever had, it should be examined more urgently, because this may be representative of a subarachnoid hemorrhage– a bleeding into a layer covering the brain. This requires immediate neurosurgical examination and drainage,” states Zacharek.
What Causes a Sinus Headache?
A true sinus headache is caused by an obstruction of normal sinus drain. This enables mucus to build up inside your sinuses. The mucus that gets caught in your sinuses is a great breeding ground for bacteria and other germs that can cause sinusitis. “Sinus headaches are usually caused by nasal or sinus obstruction that starts with an infection or an allergic reaction,” states Dr. Citardi.
“Sinus headaches that are connected with allergies may include seasonal symptoms of hay fever such as blockage, sneezing, itching, and runny nose,” says Zacharek. Sinus headaches caused by a sinus infection frequently include symptoms such as thick stained nasal discharge, decreased sense of smell, pain over your upper teeth, sinus pressure, and fever.
Here are some other sinus headache symptoms:
- Pain in the front of your face or behind your eyes
- Headache that becomes worse when you flex over
- Sinus pain that is worse in the early morning and gets better later on in the day
- Pain that is even worse in damp, winter
- Pain that follows a head cold that has actually not cleared after 7 to 10 days
Really Effective Treatments for Sinus Headaches
The best way to alleviate sinus headache pain is to determine the underlying cause of your blockage. “The sinus headache caused by allergic reactions is frequently responsive to nasal decongestants and antihistamines,” states Zacharek. “These treatments need to be reviewed by a physician due to the fact that the medications might exacerbate hypertension and other medical problems.”
Sinus headache treatments include:
- Antibiotics. If your sinus headaches are caused by a bacterial infection, treatment will require antibiotics.
- Nasal steroid sprays. These can be used to reduce swelling in your nose and ease sinus blockage for sinus headaches due to infection or allergy.
- Home remedies. Watering the nose and sinuses and increasing the humidity in the air you breathe can help sinus headaches. “Gentle sinus irrigations with sterile saline are extremely useful,” recommends Zacharek.
- Surgery. Sometimes, sinus headaches due to chronic sinus disease require surgery. Surgery to eliminate diseased sinus tissue and bring back typical sinus drainage can be done as an outpatient procedure and are typically effective.
Though sinus headaches do happen, they are less common than tension headaches and migraines. If you have symptoms of a sinus headache or sinus pain, you ought to see your doctor to find the cause. “Consultation with an ear, nose, and throat expert, along with a neurologist, might be essential for more difficult-to-treat sinus headaches,” states Citardi.