An introduction to sinus headaches
Sinus headaches may arise as a result of sinusitis.
They can be mistaken for migraines or tension headache. In reality, they are fairly uncommon so it is important to ensure that what you are experiencing is a sinus headache in order to find the most effective treatment.
What are sinus headaches?
The sinuses are small air-filled cavities located either side of the nose, under the eyes and in your forehead. They produce small amounts of fluid or mucus which normally drain to the nasal passages.
However, these cavities can become blocked due a number of causes. When this happens, mucus does not drain away and pressure increases inside the sinuses.
When your sinuses are in this sorry state, you may develop a sinus headache, felt as a deep and constant pain in the areas where your sinuses lie. Normally, sinus headaches accompany sinusitis, a condition where the mucous lining of your sinuses becomes inflamed.
What are the causes?
There are a number of reasons why pressure can build up inside sinus cavities. Apart from blockage of the sinus openings and the production of excessive amounts of mucus, unequal pressure on either side of the eardrum can also lead to sinus pain and earache, most commonly seen when flying.
Sinus headaches usually accompany other sinus problems, and finding the root cause of your sinus infection will often explain to you why you are experiencing a sinus headache. Causes of sinusitis include:
And the symptoms?
A sinus headache is characterised by a deep throbbing pain and pressure in the sinuses in the forehead and face. This pain will increase with movement or changes of temperature. The symptoms may be worsened when lying down, and so are often bad in the morning and ease as the day goes on. The sinuses are often tender to touch.
The symptoms can be similar to those of migraines and tension headaches. Often examining other symptoms you experience along with the headaches helps an accurate diagnosis to be reached.
A sinus headache will be accompanied by a blocked or runny nose, and sometimes a productive mucous cough. On the other hand, migraines are often accompanied by nausea and vomiting, are aggravated by noise and bright lights rather than lying down. A tension headache becomes worse if you are feeling stressed or under pressure.
What treatments are available?
Treating the sinus headache effectively comes down to treating the sinusitis at the root. Treatments will vary depending on the cause of the sinusitis. For example, home and herbal remedies may be effective in the treatment of a cold or flu infection, while antibiotics may be needed for a more serious bacterial infection. In some cases, surgery may be needed to correct the anatomy of the sinuses or nasal passages.
When should I go to my doctor?
If you suffer from any form of unexplained headache, you should seek help from your doctor. The diagnosis of sinusitis should be made by your doctor. They will also be able to determine if you are experiencing sinus headaches or a different type of headache.
You should also visit the doctor if you experience a worsening of symptoms, or if symptoms do not ease within ten days, if you experience double vision or loss of muscle strength or sensation. Recurring symptoms of sinusitis should also be checked, as should symptoms accompanied by a fever.
It is rare for complications of sinusitis or sinus headaches to develop, but if they do it is more common in children. A spread of infection to other parts of the body such as the ears is likely to be the most common complication of sinusitis.