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Do I Have A Sinus Headache Or A Migraine

How Do I Get Rid Of A Sinus Headache

Headache Treatments : How to Tell if You Have 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.

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.

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, a 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.

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Can You Have Both Migraine And Sinus Headaches

People with migraine can get a sinus headache, says Rajneesh. Migraine headaches have both genetic and environmental factors, and one of the environmental factors is allergies. If the allergies flare up in a person with preexisting migraine headaches, the migraine headache can get worse in the setting of sinus conditions or sinus disease, he says.

In that case, as a neurologist, I would co-treat the headaches along with the primary care physician or the ear, nose, and throat surgeon. I would work on addressing the migraine, and the other care provider would treat the underlying sinus headaches, says Rajneesh.

Because sinus congestion can be a trigger for migraine, it can lead patients without a diagnosis of migraineto believe they are having sinus headaches, Weber says.

How To Tell You’re Having A Migraine

Types of Headache

Migraines are severely disabling, with symptoms ranging from intense head pain to nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. If you suffer from migraines, it’s helpful to know some common warning signs, so you can prepare for or try to prevent one. Watch this video for signs that a migraine might be around the corner.

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Allergy Sinusitis And Sinus Headache Resources

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
  • 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, theyâre 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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    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.

    There Are Three Different Classes Of Acute Migraine Medication:

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


    These include over-the-counter pain relief medications, like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, as well as prescription pain relief medications, like opioids. Dr. Michael recommends over-the-counter analgesics for patients experiencing mild migraine symptoms.


    These are migraine-specific medications. There are seven different triptans that are all available as tablets, while one is available as an injection, some as a nasal spray, and others as an oral dissolving tablet . Triptans, which have been specifically designed to treatment migraine, can be more effective for more moderate to severe migraine attacks or in those who have not responded adequately to analgesics, Dr. Michael says.

    Ergot alkaloids

    These drugs are not used commonly, and are typically reserved for patients who dont respond to analgesics or triptans, Dr. Michael says. Migranal and Ergomar are both ergot alkaloids. Dihydroergotamine is also used by specialists as an injection or intravenous infusion in patients with attacks that are not responsive to usual medications.

    Acute medication should not be used more than 10 days per month, Dr. Michael says, or a patient will be at risk for medication-overuse headache, also known as rebound headache. Consult your health care provider or a headache specialist if you suspect that your current pain medicine is exacerbating your migraine symptoms.

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    Treatment For Sinusitis And Sinus Headaches

    Some aspects of the treatment for sinusitis and sinus headache are not all that different from migraine treatments. The treatment goals are:

    • To reduce inflammation
    • To facilitate drainage of the nasal passages
    • To identify any underlying causes and eliminate them
    • In the case of chronic sinusitis, reduce the number of attacks or flare-ups

    These are very similar to migraine treatment goals: reduce the pain of the attack, facilitate the treatment of comorbidities or symptoms that compound the discomfort, identify any triggers and eliminate them, and in the case of chronic migraine, reduce the number of attacks.

    Sinusitis treatments include a combination of symptom relief and addressing the cause. They may include:

    • Oral, nasal, or injected corticosteroids
    • Saline nasal irrigation
    • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever and pain
    • Antihistamines
    • Antibiotics
    • Environmental changes such as a humidifier or dehumidifier in the home
    • Immunotherapy
    • Surgery

    In cases where a sinus migraine or sinus headache is present, treating the symptoms and condition will usually relieve the headache.

    Similar Symptoms At A Glance

    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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    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.

    What Are The Signs You Have A Sinus Headache

    Headaches 101: When You Think Your Heads in a Vise

    When you or your child are experiencing a headache, there are signs and symptoms that can help determine whether its a sinus headache, rather than a migraine or other issue.

    • Blocked nose with a yellow discharge
    • Pain across your forehead, cheeks and nose
    • Increased pain when you move your head or bend over
    • Persistent pain that remains after a cold has cleared

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    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?
  • What Do Sinus Headaches And Migraine Headaches Have In Common

    Despite what OTC sinus product makers tout, âtrueâ sinus headaches are actually quite rare. Migraine and sinus headaches are associated with pain over the forehead and/or cheekbones. They both often are associated with swelling of the nasal membranes. That is why patients may confuse the two. However, there are many differences between sinus and migraine headaches.

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    Learn How Drugs Commonly Used To Treat Migraine Can Interact With Each Other And Medications For Other Conditions

    People can take many medications together as part of a complete migraine treatment plan. But its important to tell your doctor any migraine drug youre taking so youre both aware of possible interactions.

    Its helpful for your doctor to know all the treatments youre using. That includes over-the-counter drugs, herbals, vitamins and supplements. In doing this, they can avoid prescribing medications that could interact or cause compounding side effects. Non-medical treatments, like acupuncture, are also good to talk to your doctor about. This is so they have a full picture of your migraine treatment plan.

    We rounded up a few frequently asked questions about migraine drug interactions but recommend always talking to your doctor or pharmacist before starting a new medication for the most up-to-date information about drug interactions.

    Your Sinus Headache May Not Be What You Think

    How To Relieve A Sinus Headache

    Nearly everyone experiences a headache at some point, and the pain can range from mild to debilitating.

    Sometimes, headaches are accompanied by pain and pressure in your brow and forehead, and cause nasal symptoms. Many people associate sinus and nasal symptoms with a sinus infection, also called sinusitis, or with an upper respiratory infection, a cold. They may say that they are experiencing a sinus headache. But sinus and nasal symptoms often can signal something else: a migraine headache.

    The term “sinus headache” is not an actual medical diagnosis. Studies show that 90% of people with symptoms of a sinus headache are experiencing migraine headaches.

    Sinusitis or migraine?

    Migraines and headaches from sinusitis are easy to confuse because the signs and symptoms of the two types of headaches may overlap. Also, migraine headaches affect people differently and symptoms can change over time. This is why many who have had migraine headaches in the past are surprised when they begin having sinus and nasal symptoms with a migraine headache.

    Sinusitis, however, usually isn’t associated with nausea or vomiting, nor is it aggravated by noise or bright light all common features of migraines.

    Previous misdiagnosis

    These are a few ways you can tell whether your sinus and nasal symptoms are part of a sinus infection or part of a migraine headache:

    Risk factors

    Proper diagnosis

    • Confusion or trouble understanding speech
    • Fainting

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    What Causes Migraine Aura

    Migraine aura comes about because of cortical spreading depression. This implies that part of the brain is shutting down for a brief period of time.

  • SD Silberstein. Migraines. _Merck Man._ 2020\. Available at:,-spinal-cord,-and-nerve-disorders/headaches/migraines. Accessed July 25, 2020.
  • WHO. Headache disorders.2016. Available at: Accessed July 25, 2020.
  • Mayo Clinic. Headache causes and symptoms_._ 2020\. Available at: Accessed July 25, 2020.
  • Migraine Research Foundation. About Migraine. Available at: Accessed July 25, 2020.
  • Kristoffersen ES, Lundquist C. Medication-overuse headache: epidemiology, diagnosis and treatment. _Ther Adv Drug Saf._ 2014 5.
  • Eli Lilly. Release: Survey Reveals Many People with Migraine Live with Pain Nearly Half of Every Month. _Lilly._ 2018.
  • AMF. The timeline of a migraine attack_._ 2018\. Available at: Accessed July 25, 2020.
  • Ismail OM, Poole ZB, Bierly SL, et al. Association between dry eye disease and migraine headaches in a large population-based study. _JAMA._ 2019 137:532-536.
  • Robbins L. New Frontier in Migraine Management: Inside CGRP Inhibitors & Migraine Prevention. Pract Pain Manag. 2018 18.

  • What Medications Interact With Cgrp Antagonists

    Anti-CGRP migraine treatmentswere specifically created to prevent migraine and are designed to target CGRP , the protein known for causing migraine. They are a newer class of treatment and include fremanezumab , erenumab Galcanezumab and eptinezumab . Anti-CGRP medications do not have any known interactions with other migraine drug classes. They may be a good option for patients on multiple other medications.

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    What Can I Do About Recurring Sinus Headaches

    Many sinus headaches, especially those that recur, are actually migraines. But its smart to see your healthcare provider to figure out the cause of your headaches.

    You may find that the best long-term solution is figuring out what triggers your migraine headaches so you can avoid them. Its helpful to keep a headache diary to track potential triggers. Triggers you can control include:

    • Alcohol.
    • Specific foods, such as chocolate, red wine or strong cheese.
    • Lack of sleep.

    What Is The Best Medication For A Sinus Headache

    An Innocent Headache Could Be FATAL! Heres How To Spot ...

    Such OTC medications are available in liquids, tablets and nasal sprays. Pain relievers. Pain caused by pressure buildup in the sinus cavities may be relieved with acetaminophen or ibuprofen .

    Likewise, When should I go to the doctor for a sinus headache? See a doctor if you have: Severe symptoms, such as severe headache or facial pain. Symptoms that get worse after initially improving. Symptoms lasting more than 10 days without improvement.

    How do you know if you have a sinus infection or Covid?

    COVID-19 causes more of a dry cough, loss of taste and smell, and, typically, more respiratory symptoms, Melinda said. Sinusitis causes more discomfort in the face, congestion, nasal drip, and facial pressure.

    Can I have sinusitis without a runny nose? Can you get sinusitis without cold symptoms? Its natural to assume that sinusitis goes hand in hand with a cold. After all, many of the symptoms are the same, and we often experience the signs of sinusitis after a cold. However, you can have sinusitis without a cold.

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    How Does Migraine Differ From A Cluster Headache Or Tension Headache

    A migraine differs from a cluster headache in several ways. A main difference is their duration. Cluster headaches usually last for 30 to 90 minutes, can happen many times in one day , and then not return for many weeks or months. Migraine headaches are longer, often a full day or several days if not treated, and can return often during the same month. Cluster pain is centered around the eye, and is sharp. With clusters, there often is tearing of the eye, redness in the white area of the eye, or stuffiness of the nose .

    The onset of both migraine and tension headaches often is triggered by something in ones environment, such as stress, lack of sleep, or change in hormones. Cluster headaches are caused by changes in the brain not in the environment, and therefore onset is not triggered by something around you. Clusters often run in clusters or cycles of time, for a number of weeks or months. They often occur about the same time of year.


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