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Can Migraines Feel Like Sinus Headaches

What Is Sinus Headache

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A true sinus headache, called rhinosinusitis, is rare. The cause is a viral or bacterial sinus infection characterized by thick, discolored nasal discharge. Youll get symptoms like possibly weaker smell or no smell, facial pain or pressure and commonly, fever. Facial pain and headache should resolve within seven days after viral symptoms improve or after successful treatment with antibiotics . If pain continues, then your diagnosis should be reconsidered.

Types & Causes Of Pulsating Headaches

There are many different variations of pulsating headaches, and some people are more susceptible to certain types. The kind of work you do can play a role, as can genetics. Examine the following types of headaches to determine which you believe is afflicting you.

More often than not, pulsating headaches are only a result of the above few conditions and can be cured or reduced with a treatment plan. However, if the headache is recurrent and medicines do not seem to be working, it is important to check for more serious secondary causes such as meningitis, stroke or brain tumor. This is a rare thing to happen, however, it is best to rule out any possibility of an underlying ailment.

When To Talk With A Doctor

Recurring headaches and suspected acute sinusitis should always be evaluated by a doctor. Experts believe that most people who self-diagnose sinusitis are actually experiencing migraines. Getting the correct diagnosis is crucial to successful treatment.

Sinus pain and pressure that doesnt improve after 7 days despite treatment could mean that youre being treated for the wrong condition, especially if you dont experience other sinus symptoms.

You should also see your doctor if your headaches are accompanied by symptoms typically experienced with migraine attacks.

You dont have to be experiencing sharp head pain in order to have a migraine. Accompanying nausea, vision changes, and light sensitivity could mean you have a migraine, and not a sinus headache.

For migraine treatment, you can start with your primary care physician, and if needed you may be referred to a headache specialist, possibly a neurologist or ear, nose, and throat doctor.

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Migraine Without Head Pain

Also called a Silent or Acephalgic Migraine, this type of migraine can be very alarming as you experience dizzying aura and other visual disturbances, nausea, and other phases of migraine, but no head pain. It can be triggered by any of a persons regular triggers, and those who get them are likely to experience other types of migraine, too. The International Headache Society classifies this type as typical aura without headache.

Similar Symptoms At A Glance

How to Get Rid of Sinus Headaches

Sinus headaches and migraines share a few of the same symptoms. For one, they are both forms of headaches so the number one symptom is, of course, head pain. Both will also lead to facial pressure, making your nose, eye, and ear areas feel a bit more congested than usual. Finally, both sinus headaches and migraines will also give you watery eyes. Overall, without knowing the more specific symptoms of the two, it can be pretty difficult to self-diagnose yourself with one or the other. So what is the difference and how can you determine which one you are experiencing? Lets break-down what makes a sinus headache and a migraine different, and how to get relief for both.

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How Do I Get Rid Of A Sinus Headache

To get rid of a sinus headache, you have to treat the underlying cause. But you can take steps to ease sinus pressure and pain at home:

  • Apply a warm compress to painful areas of the face.
  • Use a decongestant to reduce sinus swelling and allow mucus to drain.
  • Try a saline nasal spray or drops to thin mucus.
  • Use a vaporizer or inhale steam from a pan of boiled water. Warm, moist air may help relieve sinus congestion.

Sinus infection

Viruses, bacteria and sometimes fungi cause sinus infections. Viral infections often go away on their own. But if your infection is bacterial or fungal, you need antibiotics or antifungal medications. Your healthcare provider may also recommend other medications to ease discomfort, such as:

  • Antihistamines to prevent allergy symptoms.
  • Pain relievers to ease headache pain.
  • Steroids to reduce inflammation.

Migraines with sinus symptoms

Sinus headaches that are actually migraines need a different type of treatment. The first step is to relieve your pain. You should know that frequently using over-the-counter medications when you have a headache can cause even more headaches .

Your provider may recommend prescription medication for migraine pain. You may also need a preventive medication that helps you have fewer migraine attacks.

Can Using Birth Control Pills Make My Migraines Worse

In some women, pills improve migraine. The pills may help reduce the number of attacks and their attacks may become less severe. But in other women, the pills may worsen their migraines. In still other women, taking birth control pills has no effect on their migraines.

The reason for these different responses is not well understood. For women whose migraines get worse when they take birth control pills, their attacks seem to occur during the last week of the cycle. This is because the last seven pills in most monthly pill packs don’t have hormones they are there to keep you in the habit of taking your birth control daily. Without the hormones, your body’s estrogen levels drop sharply. This may trigger migraine in some women.

Talk with your doctor if you think birth control pills are making your migraines worse. Switching to a pill pack in which all the pills for the entire month contain hormones and using that for three months in a row can improve headaches. Lifestyle changes, such as getting on a regular sleep pattern and eating healthy foods, can help too.

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What Causes Binocular Vision Dysfunction

The eyes are controlled by the extraocular muscles the muscles which enable our eyes to move up, down and all around. These muscles are directed by signals from the brain, which controls the eyes and directs them to focus the images the eyes see individually into one clear image. Binocular Vision Dysfunction occurs when the eyes move out of alignment with each other, making it impossible for them to form focused images. As a result of this misalignment, the eye muscles become sore and stressed as the brain works to correct this problem, leading to the previously mentioned symptoms of headaches, dizziness and blurred vision, among other things. The most common type of this condition is known as Vertical Heterophoria .

Symptoms Of A Migraine

How To Relieve A Sinus Headache

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.

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What Does An Allergy Headache Feel Like

When you experience a headache caused by allergies, you may feel them in any of these spaces within your sinuses. It may even feel like your face, rather than your head, is what really hurts. You may have pain in the cheeks that radiates to your jaw and teeth. You may feel pain on the top of your head.

Allergies may also trigger a migraine headache. This type of headache may include throbbing, and is usually felt on one side of the head. You may find that the pain gets worse in sunlight or that you also feel nauseated.

The skull has a series of connected, hollow spaces known as sinuses, which are lined with soft tissue and a layer of mucus. These sinuses help humidify and filter the air you breathe, and help drain the nose. Allergy symptoms often appear in the sinuses, like when your nose is running or stuffed up.

Some of the spaces that make up the sinuses are found in the:

  • Cheekbones
  • Between or behind the eyes
  • Behind the nose

You may experience headaches and pain if your sinuses are swollen or their openings are obstructed. This often happens with allergies. Swelling and blockage in the sinuses can prevent normal drainage and airflow, causing a buildup of pressure. Other allergy triggers, such as smoke or certain foods, can lead to headaches.

The degree of pain from an allergy headache can vary widely, from dull to almost debilitating. The level of pain may also change with your position, such as whether you are standing or lying down.

What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor

  • I get frequent sinus headaches. Is this the same thing as having a migraine or tension headache?
  • If I also have trouble breathing and have a heavy discharge from my nose, what does that mean?
  • Are migraines a symptom of a potentially bigger problem? Should I get an MRI or see a neurologist?
  • Ive tried over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, but they dont always work. Are there other prescription medications I could use instead?
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    Migraine Pain Increases With Duration

    Unlike a typical headache in which the pain gradually decreases as time goes on, migraine pain increases during its duration.

    “Migraine patients often describe the pain as throbbing and deep and can get worse as they try to go about their daily lives,” said Dr. Khorsandi. “The cause of migraine is unknown, but ‘triggers’ such as food and fragrances can make them appear. They often last for several hours or days and require prescribed medication to relieve symptoms.”

    What Are The Treatment Options

    Sinus Headache

    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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    How To Spot The Difference Between Migraines & Sinus Headaches

    If you have a runny nose, watery eyes and your head hurts, you might assume that you have a sinus headache. But studies show that about 90% of self-diagnosed sinus headaches are actually migraine.

    Theres a belief that sinus headache is a common illness. The marketing of over-the-counter medications designed to treat these symptoms reinforce this belief.. However, sinus headache is not as common as you might think.

    How can you tell if you have migraine or sinus headache and get the treatment you need? Lets start by defining migraine and sinus headache.

    Whats The Difference Between A Sinus Headache And A Migraine Headache

    While sinus headaches are caused by a viral or bacterial infection, the cause of migraine headaches is, in large part, unknown. It involves a complex interplay between nerves, brain tissue, blood vessels, and brain chemicals. What makes it so complex is that in addition to the cause being unknown, they can be triggered by almost anything, from red wine, to bright lights, to not getting enough sleep one night .

    While migraine pain can be noted in the cheek area and involve nasal membrane swelling like sinus headaches, theyĆ¢re often associated with very different symptoms.

    For example, migraines can be associated with light and /or sound sensitivity and nausea, with or without vomiting. These are only seen with sinus headaches on very rare occasions. On the flip side, migraine headaches are typically not associated with thick discolored nasal discharge or fever.

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    Why Do We Misdiagnose Migraine As Sinus Headache

    Research studies show common sinus symptoms occur with migraine. In one study, 45% of migraine patients had at least one symptom of either nasal congestion or watery eyes. Migraine is also underdiagnosed and undertreated, meaning that a self-diagnosis of migraine is less likely.

    A study involving almost 3,000 patients was important in evaluating the frequent complaint of sinus headache. In this study, the participants had at least six sinus headaches in the six months prior to entrance into the study. They had neither a migraine diagnosis nor treatment with a migraine-specific medication. What were the results? Eighty-eight percent of the participants had migraine and not sinus headaches.

    Another study, called the American Migraine Study II, showed that many people who were diagnosed with migraine thought they had sinus headache. Significantly, there were almost 30,000 study participantsonly about 50% who were diagnosed with migraine knew they had migraine before the study. The most common misdiagnosis was sinus headache.

    Sinus Migraine: A Costly Blindspot In Medical Care

    Headache Treatments : How to Relieve a Sinus Headache Naturally

    Sinus migraine is a frequently overlooked diagnosis and this oversight in clinical care has profound financial and other consequences: a leading misuse of oral antibiotics, inappropriate sinus surgery, and prolonged patient suffering and disability. Although lacking consensus on pathophysiology, diagnostic criteria and nomenclature, medical professionals need to know more about this alternative explanation for patients complaints of sinus pressure, pain, nasal congestion and runny nose. In a review of research, Frederick Godley, MD and his team explore the silent epidemic of misdiagnosed migraines and seek to instil change.

    Essentially, they argue that most patients and their caretakers are being fooled by a faulty, or hypersensitive, nervous system, otherwise known as a migraine. Even though clinicians are taught to ask what a patient means when they say they have sinus problems, they often neglect to ask all the questions that might identify a non-infectious cause. Many patients are thus misdiagnosed and receive inappropriate treatment. The review explored the impact of misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis and found that patients suffer a range of unfortunate consequences including overuse of antibiotics, the cost and risk of sinus surgery and prolonged suffering.

    While most think of migraine as a nasty headache, it is really a disease of the entire nervous system.

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    What Distinguishes Migraine From A Sinus

    The initial presentation of sinus infection is so similar to migraine that it is often mistakenly diagnosed and treated like just another headache. However, despite overlapping symptoms, differences between the two entities can be distinguished through a careful evaluation.

    Migraine is a familiar event, with or without warning symptoms . It may be gradual or abrupt in onset, moderate or severe in intensity, is often accompanied by a sensitivity to light and sound, and by nausea and vomiting. The pain may be one-sided or diffuse, limited to the front, top, or back of the head, and may often reach into the neck. It may hurt in the face area as well. Migraine may be provoked by other illnesses that affect the head or neck, such as a dental problem or respiratory or sinus infection. Migraine often subsides after several hours with the assistance of an effective rescue medication . For most, migraine is a distinct and familiar event with a predictable duration and resolution.

    Get The Right Treatment

    The result is the same: Your head hurts. Does it really matter why? Yes, because the diagnosis directs the treatment.

    For a sinus headache, the focus is on draining the fluid from the mucus-filled spaces behind your cheeks to relieve the pressure and pain, as well as cooling the inflammation. Typically, you’ll take , antihistamines, or antibiotics, or a combination of these medicines. This wouldn’t help, and may even be harmful, for someone with a migraine.

    Scientists think migraines happen because of a series of changes in your brain stem, nerve cells, and brain chemicals. No one knows exactly why they start, but they can be triggered by certain foods, activities, or other conditions.

    Treatment for migraine can include over-the-counter pain relievers as well as prescription drugs that are also used to treat seizure disorders, depression, and heart conditions. Other remedies might come as pills, shots, and nasal sprays.

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    Additional Symptoms Of Vertical Heterophoria

    Binocular vision disorders like VH can cause a number of other issues, including:

    • Light sensitivity.

    • Motion sickness, nausea and poor depth perception.

    • Anxiety when in a crowd or in large, open buildings with high ceilings.

    At Vision Specialists of Michigan, our doctors address the vision-related symptoms of BVD and VH with a unique treatment method: micro-prism lenses. These lenses work to align the images seen by the eyes, so the extraocular muscles dont have to strain to do so.

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