Sinus headaches are headaches that may accompany sinusitis, a condition in which the membranes lining your sinuses become swollen and inflamed. You may feel pressure around your eyes, cheeks and forehead. Perhaps your head throbs. Although these can indicate sinus headaches, don't jump to conclusions. Many people who assume they have sinus headaches actually have migraines or tension headaches.
When sinus headaches caused by sinusitis do occur, proper diagnosis and treatment are the keys to relief.
Sinus headache signs and symptoms may include:
Sinus headache or migraine?
As with sinus headaches, migraine pain often gets worse when you bend forward, and migraines can be accompanied by various nasal signs and symptoms — including congestion, facial pressure and a clear, watery nasal discharge.
Sinus headaches, however, usually aren't associated with nausea or vomiting, or aggravated by noise or bright light — all common features of migraines.
When to see a doctor
Sinus headaches accompany sinusitis, a condition in which the membranes lining your sinuses become swollen and inflamed. Sinusitis can be caused by colds, bacterial or fungal infections, an impaired immune system, or structural problems in the nasal cavity. The resulting pressure changes in the sinuses can trigger headaches.
Sinusitis can affect anyone. You may be more likely to develop chronic sinusitis if you have:
Preparing for your appointment
You're likely to start by first seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. However, in some cases when you call to set up an appointment, you may be referred immediately to an ear, nose and throat doctor (otolaryngologist). Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For sinus headaches, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment at any time that you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
The cause of headaches can be difficult to determine. The doctor will ask questions about your headaches and do a physical exam. Be sure to mention if you've had a recent cold, if you have allergies and if you smoke. These factors may precipitate or contribute to acute sinusitis.
Your doctor may perform one of these tests to determine if you have sinusitis:
Treatments and drugs
If you're diagnosed with sinusitis, your doctor may recommend:
To reduce the risk of sinusitis, keep your sinuses healthy.
Last Updated: 2010-02-23
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