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Do I Have A Migraine Or Sinus Headache

What Are The Risk Factors For Migraine And Sinus Headache

Headache Treatments : How to Tell if You Have a 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 Prescription Medications Treat A Sinus Headache Pain And Pressure

Headaches from allergies can be relieved with a prescription for nasal steroids sprays unless there is a contraindication. This may be helpful along with nasal saline rinses to decrease inflammation within the nasal passages and treat or prevent sinusitis.

If a bacterial infection is suspected, the health-care professional may prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection and at the same time make suggestions to treat the underlying inflammation. To establish the diagnosis of acute bacterial rhinosinusitis and the need for antibiotics, your doctor should confirm that symptoms of acute rhinosinusitis have been present for 10 days or are worsening. Symptoms should include pus-like nasal drainage, nasal obstruction, facial pain, or pressure. If the inflammation does not resolve before the antibiotic course is complete, the bacterial infection may recur.

How Are Sinus Headaches Diagnosed

Most of the time when people diagnose themselves with a sinus headache, its really a migraine. So, its important to see your healthcare provider to get an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Your healthcare provider will perform a physical exam and ask about your symptoms. If your symptoms are severe or ongoing, you may also need imaging tests. A magnetic resonance imaging test can rule out serious brain conditions. Multiple imaging tests can reveal sinus blockages and include:

  • X-rays.
  • Computed tomography scan.
  • Nasal endoscopy .

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How Do You Diagnose Sinus Headaches Caused By Migraines

Sinus headaches are most likely due to migraines or tension headaches. Migraines are diagnosed by symptoms, including the frequency and severity of symptoms, family history, and by physical exam. Migraines can also include nausea and vomiting. These episodes may be triggered by hormonal changes, lack of sleep, certain foods or alcohol or caffeine, stress, or environmental changes like weather, altitude changes, or allergens. Many patients with migraines have family members who also experience migraine headaches.

If you have unusual or severe symptoms, additional tests such as an MRI of the brain may be ordered to rule out more serious conditions that can cause headache pain, such as tumors or bleeding around the brain. If you have repeated episodes of sinus pain and pressure, a nasal endoscopy or imaging such as an MRI or CT scan can determine if sinus pain or pressure is due to a sinus infection or other sinus pathology. A normal sinus CT scan while you have symptoms could help rule out sinusitis, and determine if migraines, headaches, or other causes of facial pain and pressure are causing the sinus symptoms.

Other causes of facial pain and pressure can include temporomandibular joint syndrome, clenching or grinding your teeth, trigeminal nerve pain, temporal arteritis , dental infection, or other neurologic causes of facial pain.

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Get The Right Treatment

Migraines, Cluster, Tension or Sinus. What type of ...

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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Sinus Headache And Migraine: Overlapping Symptoms Often Result In Cases Of Mistaken Identity

Sheldon P. Hersh, MD, and Joshua N. Hersh, MD

ABSTRACT: Although often lacking credibility among many headache specialists, sinus headache continues to be a popular diagnosis among patients and health care providers. Numerous studies reveal that the overwhelming majority of patients with either self- or provider-diagnosed sinus headache actually satisfy criteria that are common for migraine. Health care providers should keep an open mind when considering a diagnosis of sinus headache. Nasal and/or ocular symptoms, although commonly associated with paranasal sinus involvement, may also present in cases of migraine.

KEYWORDS: Sinus headache, migraine, rhinosinusitis, pain

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, many patients and health care providers continue to believe that facial pain and headache are a direct consequence of underlying sinus infection. This persistent notion brings to mind Mark Twains reported quip that Its not what we dont know that hurts us. Its what we know for sure that just aint so.

Sinus Headache or Migraine?

Diagnostic Criteria

Figure 1. Essential symptoms in the diagnosis of acute sinusitis.16

Clinical Presentations

Figure 3. Autonomic symptoms occurring in migraine.

Identifying Headache Types

Sheldon P. Hersh, MD,is an otolaryngologist affiliated with the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at Northwell Health Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, New York.


Treating Sinus Headaches And Migraines

Despite their similarities, sinus headaches and migraines may be treated differently. For sinus headaches, treating the underlying sinus infection can usually resolve the headache. Taking over the counter headache medications can also help with the pain and inflammation of sinus headaches.

Because migraines are more complex, they may not respond to conventional OTC pain relievers. While some prescription migraine medications are designed to provide relief once a migraine has started, others prevent them by addressing the underlying physiology

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Find The Right Treatment To Ease Your Jaw Pain

If you have severe or long-lasting jaw pain, you may want to talk to a medical professional. But if you suffer from jaw discomfort and allergies, some simple precautions may help you smile without pain in no time.


Kristen Stewart is a freelance writer specializing in health and lifestyle topics. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, three kids and two very needy cats.

**The Can Allergies Cause Jaw Pain? section above originated on the Zyrtec website, was written by Kristen Stewart, and is being reshared here for an educational collaboration. The original version can be found here:

Important Facts About Allergic Rhinitis And Migraine

What to Diffuse When You Have a Sinus Headache

Allergic rhinitis is a histamine-driven response to an allergen, and when exposed to this allergen, the nasal passage becomes inflamed and irritated resulting in a runny nose. Histamine release has also been suggested to be involved in triggering migraine headaches. Allergic rhinitis can be screened for with simple skin testing at your allergists office or even in some primary care offices. Many people who have allergic rhinitis also have migraine. People with allergic rhinitis have a general histamine response to something they are allergic to.

  • Histamine release may also be involved in triggering headache, specifically migraine.
  • People with allergic rhinitis are more than 10 times more likely to have migraine.
  • Accurate diagnoses and treatment of allergic rhinitis will be an important part in reducing the risk of migraine.
  • Learning how to treat each condition individually should improve overall care and reduce disability of migraine associated with allergic rhinitis.

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Migraine Vs Sinus Headache

It isnt always easy to tell the difference between a migraine and a headache, much less a sinus headache, but each condition does have its own set of specific symptoms. While some are shared, others are very distinct to the condition. This creates a strong case for keeping a migraine diary and documenting the details of and surrounding your headaches.

According to Dr. Ailani, the symptoms of migraine and sinus headache are similar because of the region of the brain that is activated during an attack:

Migraine can also have associated symptoms, symptoms that come WITH the headache pain that can be confused for a sinus or allergy problem. You can have a runny nose, watery eyes, your eyes can turn red. These symptoms, called autonomic symptoms, come on because of the area in the brain, the hypothalamus, that gets turned on during migraine.

Following this section are common symptoms for migraines as well as sinus migraine, sinus headaches and sinusitis. As you can see, many of them are identical or nearly identical. Its no wonder that patients struggle to describe their head pain and doctors struggle to diagnose it. The problem is, without a proper diagnosis you cant get proper treatment. If you are diagnosed with sinus headaches but you actually have migraines, it could delay your migraine treatment for years.

What Is Sinus Headache

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.

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Do I Have A Migraine Or Tension Headache

If you have this question in mind, you likely cant tell the difference between migraine and tension headache. So were here to help.

To put it simply, tension headaches belong to the category of common headaches, alongside sinus headaches and cluster headaches. On the other hand, migraines are more than just a headache, as they are a neurological condition.

Take note of the distinguishing characteristics of a migraine and tension headache to administer proper pain relief and management.

  • A Natural Solution for Migraines
  • How Migraines Are Different

    How Do I Tell if I have a Sinus or Migraine?

    Migraines are much more common than sinus headaches, affecting about 15 percent of adults in America. The reason migraines are often mistaken for sinus headaches is that both can cause facial pain and a runny nose. The difference? With migraines, nasal discharge is thin and clear instead of thick and discolored.

    Aside from different kinds of nasal discharge, a big difference between migraines and sinus headaches is that a migraine pain can happen in many areas. While sinus headaches are primarily felt in the face, migraines can cause pain around the temples, high in the forehead or in the back of your head. They often occur on only one side of the head, while sinus headaches are usually felt on both sides of the face.

    Another distinguishing characteristic of migraines is that they frequently cause a throbbing or pulsing pain, as opposed to the pressure of sinus headaches.

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    How To Get Relief From Sinus Headaches

    If you think you are experiencing a sinus headache, contact your ENT doctor right away. As we mentioned before, a sinus headache is a sign of a current or recent case of sinusitis. The infection will need to be examined more closely by a doctor so that you can receive the proper treatment, which usually includes a prescription for antibiotics. Untreated sinus infections could lead to a variety of problems that could require surgery in the future. Even if you have chronic sinusitis, there are ways to seek relief and get treatment to stop you from experiencing sinus headaches so often.

    What Are The Symptoms Of Sinus Headaches

    Patients with migraines or tension headaches commonly have sinus and nasal symptoms during their headaches, including sinus pressure, sinus pain, nasal congestion or runny nose. Studies of patients who have self-diagnosed or been diagnosed with sinus headaches were found to have migraines or tension headaches in more than 80 percent of cases only three to five percent of these patients had sinusitis.

    Symptoms of sinusitis and migraine headaches can be similar, which can be confusing about what is causing sinus pain and pressure. Migraines and headaches can cause the following nasal symptoms:

    • Pain and pressure around the eyes, across the cheeks, and the forehead
    • Nasal congestion
    • Eye redness, tearing, or eyelid swelling
    • Symptoms on one or both sides of the face

    Sinusitis is associated with nasal congestion or obstruction and a thick nasal discharge, sometimes with facial pain, pressure, or a feeling of fullness. However, facial pain or pressure or fullness without cloudy or colored nasal discharge is most likely not a sinus infection.

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    Can Sinus Pressure Cause A Migraine

    Sinus headaches and migraines have many symptoms in common, but theyre not the same type of headache. Once the underlying sinus issue is resolved, sinus headaches should go away. But with migraines, ongoing medication may be needed to help prevent them from recurring.

    Sinus pressure may be somewhat linked to migraines, however. If you have allergic rhinitis, your nasal passages can become inflamed and irritated in response to an allergen. Its thought that the histamine release that occurs as part of the allergic reaction can cause migraines. In fact, people who have allergic rhinitis are more than 10 times more likely to suffer from migraines.

    A Natural Solution For Migraines

    What is the difference between “sinus headaches” and migraine?

    In cases where every remedy possible has been ruled outfrom avoiding triggers to taking medication, it may be advisable to consider a different approach for seeking migraine relief.

    There have been many cases where migraines have been caused by upper cervical or spinal misalignment, as brought about by poor posture. If this is also your case, seeking upper cervical care is a logical action to take.

    If you want to know more about the difference between a migraine and tension headache, check out our directoryto visit an upper cervical practice near you.

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    I Know What It Is Now What

    Once you understand the checklist youll have a much better idea of which category you fall into. Of course, youll want to confirm this with your doctor for an official diagnosis. If you think that you are one of the majority and that your sinus headaches are actually migraine then its time to see a headache specialist. The good news is that with good treatment and support from a specialist you can significantly improve your condition.

    Many people with headaches and sinus complaints self-treat with over the counter medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen/paracetamol. In most cases, migraine-specific medication and personalized strategies are far more effective.

    A range of treatment options are available depending on the severity and frequency of your headaches.

    One of the most effective types of medicinal migraine treatments are called the triptans. Ninety-two percent of people from the SAMS study were candidates for triptans, but only 12% were using them.

    Triptans require a doctors prescription and can be very useful if headaches are not very frequent. For more severe and frequently recurring cases there are preventative treatment options which help prevent attacks before they occur. There are medicinal and non medicinal preventives which you should explore with your doctor.

    A word of caution: migraine overall is poorly managed.

    Many people still havent been diagnosed. Fewer receive quality treatment.


    Allergies And Sinus Headache

    Do you have a bad headache along with sinus pressure, facial pressure, facial pain, sinus pain, nasal congestion, nasal drainage, postnasal drip, or sore throat? It must be a sinus headache, right? Sure, its possible if there is a true sinus infection going on. However, the majority of the time it isnt.

    Now if these symptoms are associated with fevers, nasty colored drainage, and other infectious symptoms, there could certainly be a sinus infection and sinus related headache. However, without these infectious types of symptoms , the most likely cause is actually migraine.

    Yes, those several monthly headaches you get with sinus pressure and congestion are probably not recurrent sinus headaches or sinus infections. They are most likely migraine, especially if there is a recurrent pattern such as monthly occurrence. Allergies are not felt to be a common cause of headache, and most of the time those symptoms actually represent migraine. If your sinus headache has features including throbbing, pounding, pulsating pain, nausea, or sensitivity to light and sound, it easily fits criteria for migraine, and should be treated as such. However, a discussion with your doctor is always recommended to ensure there is not an associated sinus infection or other cause of the headache. Your doctor should always be the one making treatment recommendations based on their assessment.

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    Will Surgery Cure Sinus Infections And Inflammation

    If the sinus headache persists, and repeated courses of treatment fail to relieve the sinusitis, surgery may be an option. Otorhinolaryngologists may be able to widen the openings that allow the sinuses to drain and decrease the risk of recurrent inflammation that may obstruct the sinuses from draining.


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