Sinus headache refers to head and facial pain associated with congestion, inflammation, or infection of the sinuses (sinusitis). The sinuses are hollow cavities in the skull that have openings into the nose. Colds and allergies cause congestion and inflammation of the nasal passages and can lead to sinusitis. Sinus headache is a symptom of sinusitis.
|Sinus Headache: Areas of Pain|
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Allergies and viral upper respiratory infections increase nasal secretions and cause tissue lining the nasal passages to swell. This results in nasal congestion and stuffiness. The opening into the sinuses become blocked and normal drainage cannot occur. Secretions that are trapped in the sinuses build up and may become infected with bacteria or, rarely, fungus. The swollen tissue, mucous build-up, or infection may create pain and pressure.
Factors that may increase your chance of a sinus headache include:
- Allergies, such as allergic rhinitis or asthma
- Persistent cold or upper respiratory infection
- Ear infections
- Enlarged tonsils or adenoids
- Nasal polyps
- Nasal deformities, such as a deviated septum
- Cystic fibrosis
- Problems with immunity
- Prior sinus surgery
- Facial injuries that block sinus passages
- Traveling in an airplane if you have an upper respiratory infection
- Tooth abscess or infection
- Swimming in dirty water
Symptoms may include:
- Pain and tenderness behind the forehead, cheeks, and around the eyes and ears
- Pain in the upper teeth
- Pain ranging from mild to severe
- Pain that is more intense first thing in the morning
- Pain that may worsen when you bend over
- Headache may occur with other symptoms of sinusitis, including:
- Nasal stuffiness and congestion
- Thick nasal drainage
- Postnasal drip
- Stuffy ears
- Sore throat
- Puffiness around the eyes
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam.
For recurring problems, testing may include:
- CT scan—to look for sinus fluid
- Nasal endoscopy—to look inside your nose and possibly take samples of drainage to be tested
Sinus headache treatment aims to:
- Open the nasal passages
- Treat any infection
- Allow sinus cavities to drain
Treatment may include:
To help reduce your chances of a sinus headache:
- Avoid exposure to anything that triggers allergy or sinus symptoms.
- Seek medical treatment for allergies.
- Wash your hands frequently to avoid colds.
- Seek treatment for a persistent cold before sinusitis sets in.
- Avoid alcoholic drinks. Alcohol can cause swelling of nasal and sinus tissues.
- Check with your doctor about using a decongestant before air travel.