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Can A Sinus Infection Trigger A Migraine

Thyroid Disease: Allergies Sinus Infections And Migraines

Sinus Infection or Sinus Migraine?
Many thyroid patients do not realize that headaches, seasonal allergies, sinus infections , and migraines can be symptoms of undiagnosed or undertreated hypothyroidism. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, the first stop is your doctor for a thorough evaluation.

If you have a diagnosed thyroid condition, make sure that your treatment is optimized. A person with a chronic headache, allergy, sinus infection or migraine should also have a complete thyroid evaluation to rule out the possibility of an undiagnosed thyroid condition.

Most people know what a headache feels like, but in order to get the right treatment, it is important to differentiate the symptoms of allergies, sinusitis, and migraine.

Allergy Symptoms and Treatments

  • Fatigue
  • Wheezing
Sinusitis Symptoms and Treatments
  • Ear pain or pressure
  • Fever
Some studies have shown that the majority of people who think they have chronic, recurrent sinus infections are actually experiencing chronic migraines. Treatment for migraines typically falls into several categories:

Symptoms Of A Migraine

Migraines can vary from person to person and even from attack to attack. There are a wide range of migraine symptoms, but the most common include:

  • Head pain, often over one eye or on one or both sides
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Ear pain
  • Coughing

To further compound the confusion between these two conditions, even treatment options are similar. Many people are very surprised to discover that sinus medications and treatments relieve their migraine pain. Dr. Ailani explains:

Migraine can improve when using products like Sudafed or Advil cold/sinus. These medications work to reduce some of the chemicals that are elevated during a migraine, so dont be fooled into thinking that if you feel better with Sudafed, it is a sinus issue. Overuse of these medications can lead to more headaches, so if you find yourself using these medications more than 2-3 days a week, seek medical attention for an appropriate diagnosis.

A diagnosis of either a migraine or a sinus headache is the first step in finding treatment that works.

Sinus Specialists At Detroit Sinus Center

At Detroit Sinus Center in Michigan, we are dedicated to helping our community breathe a little easier. At our offices in Southfield and Allen Park, you can expect top-tier sinus diagnosis and treatment services provided by our expert and friendly ENT doctors. We can help solve a variety of sinus-related problems that you may be experiencing, including sinus headaches and sinusitis infections. We even offer surgical procedures including endoscopic sinus surgery and, the less invasive, balloon sinus dilation. To get the sinus relief that you deserve, contact Detroit Sinus Center today to schedule an appointment!

Read Also: Beta Blocker For Headache

Socan A Sinus Infection Cause A Migraine

Now lets move on to a condition that is usually mistaken for sinus headache, the migraine. In comparison to a sinus headache, a migraine is much more severe and painful. The pain occurs on one side of the head and is commonly accompanied by high sensitivity to light and sounds.

The major cause of migraine is still unknown, however, specialists believe that it is the result of several changes in the hormones and chemicals in the body and blood vessels.

Some of the things that could trigger migraine include:

  • women about to have their period
  • daily stress

Sinus Headache Or Sign

Sinus Migraines: How To Treat Them Effectively

Many people mistakenly believe their headaches are due to sinus problems when actual reason is migraine. In reality, more than 85% of people who suspect that they have sinus headaches in fact have migraines.

Why the confusion between sinus headaches and migraines?

It begins with the many symptoms that both migraines and sinus headaches share, which include pressure in the face, an association with barometric/seasonal weather changes, and autonomic nervous system dysfunction. The autonomic nervous system controls many of the involuntary functions in your body including heart rate, blood pressure, and sweating. In the case of migraines, autonomic dysfunction can cause eye redness, eyelid swelling/drooping, tearing, sinus congestion, and even a runny nose.

Response to treatment can also further drive patients to believe that they have sinus headaches rather than migraines. For example, a patient may have a headache involving a pressure sensation in the face, and calls their primary care physician thinking a sinus infection is causing the symptoms. The doctor will often order a refill of medications that worked in the past for patients sinus problems. The patient feels better after taking these medications, and believes that the infection is cured.

Heres why you want to know whether you have migraines and not sinus headaches

Three telltale signs its a sinus headache and not a migraine

Three features that are more suggestive of sinus headache than migraine. These are:

Also Check: Vestibular Migraine Duration

What Are The Risk Factors For Migraine And Sinus Headache

The exact reason why a person has migraine isnt known, but it’s believed to be a combination of genetics and environmental factors, says Kiran Rajneesh, MBBS, a neurologist and pain medicine specialist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. By genetics we mean something that youre born with a propensity for headaches that includes family history or mutations that involve certain channels in the brain, Dr. Rajneesh says.

Migraine is most common in people ages 18 to 44, and women are about three times more likely to have migraine than men, according to the Migraine Research Foundation.

People are born with some propensity for migraine, and then there is a threshold for symptom attacks people can reach that threshold when they are exposed to certain environmental factors or lifestyle changes, says Rajneesh. These can include certain foods, drinks, lack of sleep, or even changes in the weather, he says.

A sinus headache is a symptom of a sinus infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , the risk factors for sinus infection can include a previous cold, seasonal allergies, smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke, structural problems with the sinuses such as nasal polyps, and a weak immune system or medications that compromise the immune system.

What Causes Sinus Headaches

Sinus infections cause sinus headaches. Anything that makes mucus buildup in the sinuses can lead to a sinus infection, such as:

  • The common cold is most often to blame.
  • Seasonal allergies trigger mucus production.
  • Nasal polyps, abnormal growths in the nose or sinuses. Nasal polyps can block mucus from draining.
  • Deviated septum, which is when the line of cartilage and bone down the center of the nose isnt straight. A deviated septum can prevent mucus from properly draining.

Too much mucus gives germs an opportunity to grow. As germs build up, they irritate the sinuses. In response, sinus tissue swells, blocking the passage of mucus. Swollen, irritated sinuses filled with liquid make your face feel tender and achy.

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What Are The Treatment Options

Your primary care provider, or a neurologist, can provide recommendations for treating your headaches based on their severity and frequency, and can rule out more serious causes of your headache. Treatment for migraines includes both over-the-counter and prescription medications and preventative medications for patients with severe or frequent headaches, or if headaches are present for more than 15 days per month.

Over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can also be associated with rebound headaches or medication-overuse headaches if taken too often. Tell your doctor how often you take pain medications for headaches. Avoid triggers, and talk to your doctor about your sleep habits. Keep a headache diary to record your headache symptoms, triggers, and treatments.

Sinus headaches caused by migraines or tension headaches should not be treated with antibiotics. Because there are similar symptoms between acute sinusitis and migraine headaches with nasal and sinus symptoms, it can be difficult to tell if your symptoms are truly a sinus infection. Sinus pain and pressure without discolored nasal discharge is most likely not a sinus infection. If you have been diagnosed with frequent sinus infections and have been treated with repeated episodes of antibiotics without improvement, migraines or tension headaches could be causing your sinus pain and pressure.

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When To See A Doctor

ENT Manifestations of Migraine 4: sinus headache with dizziness

Make an appointment when your headaches:

  • Are coming more often and are more severe
  • Don’t get better with over-the-counter medications
  • Keep you from working, sleeping, or doing your normal activities
  • Cause other problems

It’s likely that your doctor will talk to you about your health, both now and in the past, and run some tests to rule out other possible causes of your head pain before coming up with a treatment plan.

A severe headache may be a symptom of a serious condition such as a stroke, meningitis, or encephalitis. Seek emergency care if you:

  • Are confused or have trouble understanding speech

Read Also: Medication For Migraines And Seizures

What Is A Sinus Migraine

Technically, there is no medical condition known as a sinus migraine. Signs and symptoms of a sinus headache and migraine are easily confused since they overlap.

Nonetheless, many women suffer from a sinus headache – which can involve a fever, thick nasal secretions, or pain and pressure in the face and sinuses – that feels like a migraine, a moderate to severe headache that can make a woman nauseated as well as sensitive to lights and sounds.

As such, sinus headaches that feel like migraines will be referred to as sinus migraines from here on.

The High Probability That Your Sinus Headache Is A Migraine

The large majority of sinus headache patients satisfy the International Headache Society criteria for Migraine. Furthermore, the most common cause of sinus headaches for which patients present to their primary care doctor is, in fact, Migraine.

This highlights the importance of evaluation and collaboration by multiple specialists.

In fact, the International Headache Society doesn’t even call it “sinus headache” anymore. To alleviate confusion with Primary Headaches like Migraine and Tension-Type Headaches, it’s now called “headache attributed to disorder of the nose or paranasal sinuses.” Catchy, huh?

Recommended Reading: Migraine Aura During Pregnancy

Are These Your Symptoms

From those patients confirmed with a migraine diagnosis in the study:

  • 83% noticed the weather affected their headaches
  • 73% noticed seasonal variations in their headaches
  • 62% said their headaches were triggered by allergies
  • 56% had nasal congestion
  • 25% had a runny nose
  • 22% had red eyes
  • 19% had watery eyes

You could be forgiven for thinking these symptoms are sinus related. They look a lot like the symptoms you might expect from a sinus infection so its no surprise that there is a significant amount of confusion between sinus headache and migraine.

Results found that 9 out of 10 patients in the study had migraine, not sinus headache.

Furthermore, the 100 patients from the study had seen an average of 4 physicians each and had gone on average 25 years without the correct diagnosis or significant relief.

Thats 25 years without significant relief and 4 physicians who had gotten the diagnosis wrong!

The lead investigator of the SAMS study Dr. Eross says It was hard to convince some of them that they actually suffered from migraine headaches, said Dr. Eross. Many were shocked.

One in ten people from the study knew they had migraine, but thought they had sinus headaches in addition. In reality they actually suffered two different types of migraine, one with sinus symptoms and one without, Dr. Eross noted.

Much of the pain or pressure is in the face, on both sides, so it doesnt occur to them that this might be a migraine. Dr Eross

Allergy Sinusitis And Sinus Headache Resources

Sinus Migraine: When Sinus Pain is More than a Headache ...

There are a number of very good resources available for people suffering from allergies, sinusitis, and sinus headaches:

  • Al-Hashel, J. Y., Ahmed, S. F., Alroughani, R., & Goadsby, P. J. . Migraine misdiagnosis as a sinusitis, a delay that can last for many years. Retrieved from
  • Bono, F., Messina, D., Giliberto, C., Cristiano, D., Broussard, G., Fera, F., . . . Quattrone, A. . Bilateral transverse sinus stenosis predicts IIH without papilledema in patients with migraine. Retrieved from
  • Cady, R. K., & Schreiber, C. P. . Sinus headache or migraine? Retrieved from
  • Chronic sinusitis. . Retrieved from
  • C. . Sinus Headaches. Retrieved from
  • December 62:752-754, J. F., & Author: Christopher Boisselle, MD Richard Guthmann, MD, MPH Kathy Cable, MLS. . What clinical clues differentiate migraine from sinus headaches? Retrieved from
  • ENT Health. . Sinus Headaches.
  • Migraine Symptoms. . Retrieved from
  • Recommended Reading: Persistent Migraine Aura Treatment

    The Most Common Misdiagnosis For Migraine Is This

    You guessed it, sinus headache.

    According to recently published research, over half of all those with migraine who participated in their study were misdiagnosed. The authors concluded that the under-recognition of migraine constitutes a significant public health problem.

    Why are so many people not diagnosed?

    There are a number of reasons why an individual with symptoms of migraine report that they havent been diagnosed by a health professional. These include:

  • Migraine patients may not seek medical care for their headaches
  • They may seek care but not receive a diagnosis
  • They may be diagnosed but forget their diagnosis
  • Not seeing a doctor for what they believe to be just a headache
  • Poor patient-physician communication may be a barrier to appropriate care. Diagnosis is complicated as physicians rarely see a patient during a migraine so they must rely on a patients retrospective description of prior symptoms.
  • Consultation lengths may also be a factor which recent research showing consultation lengths may last around 11 minutes on average. This provides little opportunity for patients to communicate the information required to diagnose migraine and initiate appropriate treatment.
  • Can An Ear Infection Cause A Headache

    By Getwell Urgent Care

    If you have sinus pressure or viral infection in your ear, nose, or throat, its not uncommon to experience a headache as well. The ear, nose, and throat are connected and surrounded by hollow sinus cavities in the cheekbones, middle of the forehead, between the eyes, and in the nose. When you have sinusitis or tonsilitis, these cavities can fill with mucus and cause sinus pressure headaches. The mucus can also leak into the middle ear and cause an ear infection. Each of these infections can irritate the nerves around the face and head and cause headaches or even migraines.

    Now that you know the basics of how headaches happen, you may still be wondering, Can an ear infection cause a headache? The answer is yes, ear infections can cause headaches and even fevers. Ear infections are more common in children than in teens or adults. If your child has an ear infection or struggles with repeat ear infections, its important to visit their primary care physician or local urgent care facility as some cases can cause lasting damage to the ears.

    Symptoms of ear infection include:

    • Ear pain
    • Difficulty sleeping

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    What Actually Is Sinusitis

    It is an inflammation of the tissue lining you sinuses located behind the trestle of your nose, inside your cheekbones, and forehead see the following image, credit to WebMD.

    Sinuses are normally filled with air, thats why they are also often called as air-filled cavities. In sinusitis, the sinuss lining tissue gets inflamed and swollen, blocking the flow of mucus that normally drains into the nose. As a result, there will be bacteria, fungi, or viruses that can overgrow and cause an infection, worsening the problem.

    This blockage can be triggered by a number of causes, such as allergic reaction, common cold, or particular disorders . People with a condition that weakens their body immune system are also at high risk. If the immune system is not as strong as usual, the infection is relatively easier to develop.

    There are several different types of sinusitis. These include:

  • Acute sinusitis, typically characterized by cold-like symptoms such as nasal symptoms and facial pain. It usually lasts less than 4 weeks.
  • Sub-acute, if the problem lasts about 4-8 weeks.
  • Chronic, if it lasts 8 weeks or more.
  • And recurrent sinusitis. It is a term used if the problem attacks several times a year.
  • Fortunately, it is usually harmless and the treatment is not always necessary. Even many times, it responds to lifestyle measures .

    Allergy Causes And Risk Factors

    Can sinus headache occur without congestion? – Dr. Sreenivasa Murthy T M

    Allergic rhinitis typically comes in two forms: seasonal and perennial. As its name suggests, seasonal allergies strike at predicted times of the year, most often in the spring, summer, or early fall. The main culprits tend to be pollens from grasses, trees, and weeds as well as mold spores transported through the air.

    People with perennial allergies suffer all year. Triggers tend to be exposures encountered during everyday life such as animal dander, dust mites, cockroaches, or mold spores rather than outdoor greenery or conditions.4

    While allergies are more likely to strike during childhood, they can develop at any time during a persons lifetime. Reactions can vary from minor to severe.5

    Unfortunately, you cant control most of the risk factors for developing hay fever. People with existing allergies, asthma, or eczema are more likely to have hay fever. And if a parent, sibling or other blood relative has allergies or asthma, your chance of getting hay fever increases. But you can control one risk factor by spending less time exposed to allergens like animal dander or dust mites.

    Recommended Reading: Irritated Eyes Headache Nausea Weakness And Dizziness Are Early Symptoms Of What Injury

    Symptoms Of A Sinus Headache

    Sinus headaches resemble migraines. However, they are accompanied by:

    • Nasal discharge that is colored
    • Possible fever
    • Headaches that occur over the sinuses
    • Abnormal x-ray or CT scan of the sinuses

    Sinus headaches usually disappear after being treated for sinusitis. So if you believe you have sinusitis, contact our allergists for same-day diagnosis and treatment.

    How Long Does A Take For A Sinus Headache To Go Away

    • Acute sinusitis typically lasts less than eight weeks or occurs no more than three times per year with each episode lasting no longer than 10 days. Medications are generally effective against acute sinusitis. Successful treatment counteracts damage done to the mucous lining of the sinuses and surrounding bone of the skull.
    • Chronic or recurring sinusitis lasts longer than eight weeks or occurs more than four times per year, with symptoms usually lasting more than 20 days.

    Read Also: Confusional Migraine Symptoms


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