Most people have suffered a headache at some point in their life, and often a sinus infection is the cause. However, often migraines are misdiagnosed as sinus headaches. Sinus headaches, or rhinosinusitis, are fairly rare. Sinus headaches are caused by a viral or bacterial sinus infection and lead to facial pain and a headache.
With so many misdiagnosed migraines, how can you tell if you have a sinus headache?
Sinus Headache vs. Migraine
Many people suffer from frequent headaches with sinus pain or other sinus symptoms such as congestion or watery eyes. Many patients refer to it as a sinus pressure headache or sinus headache because of the sinus pain. In one study, 45% of chronic migraine patients had at least one symptom of nasal congestion or watery eyes. However, most “sinus headaches” are actually migraines.
In order to determine if your bad headache is a migraine and not a sinus headache, ask yourself these three questions:
1. In the past three months, has your headache interfered with your ability to function?
2. Does nausea ever come with your headache?
3. Does light sensitivity come with your headache?
If you answered yes to two out of the three questions, you probably have a migraine.
So, what does an actual sinus migraine or headache feel like?
Sinus headache symptoms include a deep pain in your cheekbones, forehead, or your nose. You probably also will have a runny nose, swelling in your face, fever, and may experience a feeling of “fullness” in your ears. The fever is usually a key symptom in determining a sinus headache from a run-of-the-mill migraine, as it usually indicates your body is fighting off an infection. With a sinus migraine, you will generally not be sensitive to light or loud noises, and nausea is usually not associated with a sinus headache.
Sinus Headache Treatments
If your doctor has determined that you have a sinus headache, there are a number of options to provide relief for your symptoms and treat your infection.
· Antibiotics. If your doctor prescribes an antibiotic, be sure to take the whole course, even after your symptoms improve.
· Saline nasal spray. You can spray this into your nose several times a day to provide sinus infection relief.
· Antihistamines or decongestants to treat your runny nose. These medications are available over-the-counter or by prescription.
· Sinus headache medicines like over-the-counter pain relievers or corticosteroids to relieve sinus inflammation. This provides sinus headache relief.
· Surgery. Rhinopathic headaches are a type of headache caused by abnormal nasal anatomy that can mimic migraines. Conditions like a deviated septum or concha bullosa can affects the airflow through the nose and trigger migraines and other headaches via the nerve endings in the nose. Rhinopathic headaches caused by abnormal nasal anatomy can be relieved with correcting the anatomy during surgery.
When to See a Doctor
With so many overlapping symptoms between a migraine and a sinus headache, you should consult a doctor if you have the following:
· If your headache symptoms occur more than half of the month
· If over-the-counter pain medication does not provide relief
· If your headaches interfere with your daily life
Many people who assume they have headaches from sinusitis actually have a migraine. Remember that even though there are many overlapping symptoms between the two conditions, sinusitis is not associated with nausea or vomiting and is not aggravated by bright light or noise. While migraines last anywhere from a few hours to a day or two, sinus headaches often last a few days. Understanding these key differences will help your doctor diagnose your headache properly and provide you with quick and effective relief.