Sinus headaches are all too familiar for many of us. Pain and pressure in the face, cheeks, forehead, and eyes send us reaching for decongestants and even calling an ear, nose and throat specialist to find relief.
However, most headaches have nothing to do with our sinuses. This is because a “sinus headache” is not an actual medical diagnosis, but rather a description of headache symptoms.
What is sinusitis?
Sinusitis is a condition where the sinuses become inflamed, which can lead to headaches. However, only three to five percent of “sinus headaches” are caused by sinusitis. Studies have found that more than 80 percent of “sinus headaches” are actually caused by tension headaches or migraines.
Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. The symptoms include dull to aching head pain, a feeling of pressure along the forehead, sides or back of the head. They also include scalp tenderness as well as achy neck and shoulder muscles.
Migraines, a type of headache, are also very common. They are characterized by intense pain or pulsing on one side of the head, along with a feeling of nausea or vomiting. Sensitivity to noise or bright light are also symptoms.
Is your headache a sinus issue?
Pain and pressure around the face and forehead are not the only symptoms that sinusitis headaches share with other types of headaches. Nasal congestion, runny nose as well as tearing, red and swollen eyes are also symptoms of headaches not caused by sinusitis.
However, pain that lasts for days as well as cloudy/colored nasal discharge are symptoms of only sinusitis headaches. These symptoms are possibly the best way to tell if your headache is a problem with your sinuses, especially if these symptoms occur after an upper respiratory infection or a cold.
If your headache is accompanied by cold-like symptoms and discolored nasal discharge, seek treatment for sinusitis. If not, seek treatment for potential tension headaches or migraines from a primary care provider and, in some cases, a neurologist.
Find a Bon Secours provider near you and schedule an appointment today.