Sinus headaches often get the blame for the pain, but could it be something else?
Okay, spring is finally here and just when you are ready to get out and enjoy the nice weather you are hit with a pounding headache and pressure leading you to the conclusion that what you have is a sinus headache. However, the truth is, your headache may not be the result of your sinuses. In fact, sinus headaches are often self-misdiagnosed. So how do you tell whether it really is a sinus headache or if it could be one of a number of other kinds of headaches? Here’s what you need to know.
Sinus Headache 101
A true sinus headache is caused by an obstruction of normal sinus drainage. When this happens mucus builds up inside your sinuses. The mucus that gets trapped in your sinuses is an excellent breeding ground for bacteria and other germs that can lead to sinusitis, a common condition in which the lining of the sinuses becomes inflamed, usually caused by a viral infection.
Symptoms of a sinus headache include:
Pain in the front of your face or behind your eyes;
Pain that gets worse when you bend over;
Pain that is worse in the morning and gets better later in the day;
Pain that is worse in damp, cold weather;
Pain that follows a head cold that has not cleared after 7 to 10 days.
Other headache types – know the difference
Tension headaches. These are caused by muscle tightness and are the most common type of headache. You may feel the pain of a tension headache in your head or in your neck. Muscle tightness can be caused by stress or by holding your head in an unnatural position for too long.
Migraine headaches. Migraines occur in about 17 percent of the population and are more common in women. They are more severe than sinus headaches and often occur several times a month. The symptoms may include nausea and vomiting. Migraine headache pain is felt as a throbbing pain and tends to get worse with activity.
Cluster headaches. These headaches affect less than one percent of the population, are more common among men and cause a very severe one-sided headache that occurs in cycles.
Treating Sinus Headache PAIN
Sinus headaches caused by allergies often respond well to nasal decongestants and antihistamines. However, you should consult your doctor before taking over-the-counter medications for sinus headaches because they may aggravate hypertension and other medical problems.
Sinus headache treatments include:
Antibiotics may be warranted if your sinus headaches are caused by a bacterial infection.
Nasal steroid sprays can be used to reduce swelling in your nose and relieve sinus congestion headaches due to sinus infection or allergy.
Irrigating the nose and sinuses and increasing the humidity in the air you breathe can help relieve sinus headaches.
Surgery may be required in some cases of chronic sinus disease. The surgical procedure, which can be done as an outpatient procedure, is designed to remove diseased sinus tissue and restore normal sinus drainage.
Although sinus headaches are not uncommon, they are less common than tension headaches and migraines. If you have the symptoms of a sinus headache see your doctor to make sure. Consultation with an Otolaryngologist or ear, nose, and throat specialist, may be necessary for more difficult-to-treat sinus headaches. In the case of sinus headaches, as with most medical matters, it’s best to leave the diagnosis to the professionals. Otherwise, your self-prescribed cure could be worse than the disease.