You may find yourself living your life then,ouch!!!! Your head hurts badly,and you what might it be? The thought comes to your mind that might be a sinus headache? If this describes you in any shape or form then, well you are in the right place. Here you’ll find more information on whether what you’re experiencing is a sinus headache or not.
Causes of sinus headaches
Sinus headaches are caused by congestion or inflammation of the sinuses, better known as sinusitis. Sinusitis is usually caused by respiratory infections,colds and flu, and allergies like hay fever.
A healthy sinus allows for the drainage of mucus and for air to and fro through the passage. When these sinus areas become inflamed they become blocked and harbor viruses, bacteria and fungus. These organisms grow rapidly giving way to infection, Although cold weather is the major reason for sinus issues, anything that blocks the drainage can cause sinusitis, cause headaches, and nasal symptoms.1
Some of the following can be considered risk factors
- History of recurrent allergy, especially Hays fever or asthma
- Nasal polyps or swelling, nasal bone spurs, deviated nasal septum, and facial tumors can block the sinus areas causing difficulty in drainage and thereby causing sinusitis
- Frequent swimming or diving
- Exposure to cold weather /change of climates
- Climbing or flying at high altitudes2
Signs and symptoms of sinus headache
According to the American migraine foundation, the sinus headache is often misunderstood as a migraine or tension headache as both are quite similar in terms of headache and nasal symptoms. Most often, when people self-diagnose, many migraines are diagnosed as sinus headaches. Migraines usually have triggering factors like lack of sleep, hormonal changes, caffeine addiction, and stress. It can be made out by episodes, and intensity, and it is usually one-sided. Sensitivity to light, noise, nausea and vomiting are hallmark symptoms of migraine.
Now let's understand the symptoms of sinus headache3
- The pain in one specific area over the face, head or behind the eyes
- The face is very tender to touch
- Congested or runny nose
- Headache often starts when you have a bad cold or just after exposure to very cold air
- Pain is worse in the morning as mucus is collected and drained at night
- Pain is more while moving the head forward or backward
- Headache typically starts after sudden weather changes like going out into the cold from a warm room or exposure to dry cold wind
- Mild to moderate fever
- Post nasal drip with a sore throat
- Green or yellow discharge from the nose
- Facial pain
- Fatigue and lethargy
- A sense of not feeling well
- Pain in upper teeth and ear
- Fullness of ear
- Swollen or puffy face
Management and treatment for sinus headache
Sinus pain are mostly caused by infections or allergies. They can be treated with the help of medications and nasal sprays. Doctors will prescribe antibiotics if needed depending on the infection. Lifestyle changes and certain home remedies can help to ease the symptoms. Humidifiers can be used. Nasal passages can be irrigated with the help of salt water.
Steam can help a lot in reducing congestion. Dietary supplements and a few native herbs can also help in alleviating symptoms. Using normal saline drops to the nose can relieve the congestion or stuffed nose.
Sinus headaches may be managed in the following ways:
- Using a humidifier
- Using a saline nasal spray
- Steaming two or three times a day
- Getting the chronic treatment for allergy
- Relieving your allergic or asthmatic attacks with medications
- Stretches for neck and head
- Avoid cold food which, can trigger your conditions, rather eat warm fresh foods
- Stay hydrated, drink plenty of warm water
The following medication may aid in alleviating your sinus headache, depending on the cause of it:
- Antibiotics - If the sinusitis is caused by a bacterial infection then doctors will prescribe antibiotics. For acute sinusitis, the treatment usually lasts for about 5 to 7 days. In chronic sinusitis, as it has a longer duration, and consider past episodes doctor may treat it for about 2 to 3 weeks4
- Nasal corticosteroids - These nasal sprays made from corticosteroids helps in reducing congestion, redness, itching and swelling, sneezing, and running nose5
- Antihistamines - They block histamineactivity, which helps in relieving symptoms like swelling6
- Decongestants - Decongestants are available in the form of sprays and tablets and can be used along with antihistamines
- Triptans- Triptans are cranial nerve dilators which, according to a study conducted, have helped about 82%people with sinus headaches7
Nutrition and dietary supplementation
- Supplements like probiotics can be taken which consequently help in reducing the chance of developing allergies and can complement the conventional treatment8
- Bromelain, is an enzyme, which is present in pineapples that helps in reducing inflammation and swelling caused by sinusitis
Quercetin, which is a flavonoid or a plant pigment, is responsible for adding colour to fruits and vegetables, acts as an anti-histamine. It helps in relieving running noses and watery eyes.9 Herbs may help prevent or treat cold and enhances the immunity system thereby reducing the chance of getting a sinus headache.Herbs such as Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis), Feverfew(Tanacetum Parthenium), and Willow bark(Salix spp) help in traditionally treating headaches.10 Other methods
Certain studies have found the effectiveness of specific homoeopathic remedies in treating sinus headaches and significant improvement of symptoms have been noted.11
Chronic sinusitis usually does not respond to regular medication. The doctor may further recommend endoscopic sinus surgery. which removes polyps or bone spurs.12 A new procedure called balloon sinuplasty involves inserting a balloon inside the sinus cavity and then inflating it to help in removing the blockage present in the sinus cavity.13 These surgeries are done by ENT Specialists.
How can I prevent sinus headaches
If you are having recurrent headaches, see a medical professional in order to identify the cause. If it's because of an allergy, avoiding the allergen or getting a chronic treatment to combat the allergy is necessary.
Lifestyle changes can be considered like avoiding aggravating factors like cold food or allergens, keeping warm in cold weather, using a humidifier, or vapouriser, and regularly practising breathing exercises can help to avoid episodes of headache and infection.
If there is a need for surgical intervention in case of polyp, or deviated nasal septum, getting it corrected can help you overcome the sinus headache.
How long does a sinus headache last
There are two subtypes of acute and chronic. Acute sinusitis caused by infections like viruses or bacteria resolves in a week or two by getting treated. If it's chronic sinusitis,, it requires chronic treatment by looking into its cause.
How common is sinus headache
Sinus headaches are less common these days. This is possibly due to them being often misdiagnosed as a normal headache. Pain over the sinus people thinks it's sinusitis whereas various other diagnoses like tension headache, migraine, and cluster headache can also be a cause for it. A careful look into symptoms and conditions is looked into before diagnosing.
How is sinus headache diagnosed
A doctor may closely understand symptoms and may examine them physically over the sinus by eliciting the tenderness. The doctor may further ask for one of the following,
- X-RAY of the paranasal sinus (PNS)
- CT scan
- Nasal endoscopy
What does a sinus headache feel like
In a typical sinus headache there is facial pain. The tenderness and pain are felt over the affected sinus area. The pain increases when we move our head it typically feels like water in the head. The pain is more when bending. Heaviness is felt over the head. Pain is also felt behind the eyes, over the eyebrows, cheeks and across the nasal bridge.
When to see a doctor
- Sudden and severe headache persisting for more than 24 hours
- Chronic or severe headache that begins after the age of 50
- Severe headache with redness in one eye could be acute glaucoma and this needs immediate medical attention
- Headache associated with fever, stiff neck, nausea and projectile vomiting. (meningitis symptoms need immediate treatment)
- Headache with loss of memory, blurring of vision, altered speech, loss of strength in limbs or tingling or loss of sensation in any part of the body (can be stroke seeks immediate emergency care)
If your pain is around the sinus area with tenderness don’t jump to conclusions. Carefully note the symptoms and type of nasal discharge. If the pain is not reducing or if you are experiencing frequent headaches consult your doctor and they will help you with diagnosis and proper treatment.
- Adenoid disorders - ear, nose, and throat disorders [Internet]. MSD Manual Professional Edition. [cited 2023 Jan 17]. Available from: https://www.msdmanuals.com/en-in/professional/ear,-nose,-and-throat-disorders/oral-and-pharyngeal-disorders/adenoid-disorders
- Ah-See KW, Evans AS. Sinusitis and its management. BMJ [Internet]. 2007 Feb 15 [cited 2023 Jan 17];334(7589):358–61. Available from: https://www.bmj.com/content/334/7589/358
- Sinus headache information | mount Sinai - new york [Internet]. Mount Sinai Health System. [cited 2023 Jan 17]. Available from: https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/condition/sinus-headache
- Aring AM, Chan MM. Acute rhinosinusitis in adults. American family physician [Internet]. 2011 [cited 2023 Jan 17]; Available from: https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Acute-rhinosinusitis-in-adults.-Aring-Chan/0360c01065ab2d82b4a69139637fd1d532dbe538
- Hayward G, Heneghan C, Perera R, Thompson M. Intranasal corticosteroids in the management of acute sinusitis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Fam Med [Internet]. 2012 May [cited 2023 Jan 17];10(3):241–9. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3354974/
- Randall L. Antihistamines vs nasal sprays: what is the best medicine for sinus & allergy issues? : sinus & allergy wellness centre: otolaryngology [Internet]. Sinus & Allergy Wellness Center. 2019 [cited 2023 Jan 17]. Available from: https://www.sinusandallergywellnesscenter.com/blog/antihistamines-vs-nasal-sprays-what-is-the-best-medicine-for-sinus-allergy-issues
- Kari E, DelGaudio JM. Treatment of sinus headache as migraine: the diagnostic utility of triptans. Laryngoscope. 2008 Dec;118(12):2235–9.
- Guo R, Cantery PH, Ernst E. Herbal medicines for the treatment of rhinosinusitis: a systematic review. Otolaryngol--head neck surg [Internet]. 2006 Oct [cited 2023 Jan 17];135(4):496–506. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1016/j.otohns.2006.06.1254
- Sinus headache | complementary and alternative medicine | st. Luke’s hospital [Internet]. [cited 2023 Jan 17]. Available from: https://www.stlukes-stl.com/health-content/medicine/33/000073.htm
- Friese KH, Zabalotnyi DI. [Homeopathy in acute rhinosinusitis: a double-blind, placebo controlled study shows the efficiency and tolerability of a homeopathic combination remedy]. HNO. 2007 Apr;55(4):271–7.
- Kennedy DW, Zinreich SJ. The functional endoscopic approach to inflammatory sinus disease: current perspectives and technique modifications. American Journal of Rhinology [Internet]. 1988 Jun [cited 2023 Jan 17];2(3):89–96. Available from: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.2500/105065888781693078
- Sinus and nasal disorders [Internet]. Duke Health. [cited 2023 Jan 20]. Available from: https://www.dukehealth.org/treatments/ear-nose-and-throat/sinus-and-nasal-conditions