Sinuses are air-filled spaces located in your forehead, cheekbones, and behind the bridge of your nose which drain through narrow channels into the nose. When the linings of the channels that connect the sinuses to the nose become inflamed, they impair the ability of the sinuses to drain normally. Pressure may begin to build up within the blocked sinus.
The swelling and inflammation then back up into the sinuses with increased mucus and fluid secretion. Pressure can also develop at contact points between two structures in the nose and sinuses that swell against each other. All of these factors can combine to create the pain of a sinus headache.
A number of factors can cause a sinus headache, including:
Sinus headaches are associated with a deep and constant pain, pressure and fullness in the cheekbones, forehead or bridge of the nose. The pain typically intensifies with sudden head movement, straining, or first getting up out of bed. The part of the face in the area of the affected sinus can be tender to the touch.
A sinus headache with a sinus infection can also have the following symptoms:
A sinus headache with sinus inflammation can also have the following symptoms:
Sinus headaches are easy to confuse with migraines and tension headaches because the signs and symptoms of the three overlap. Analyzing the location and duration of the pain along with other factors can help distinguish between them.
Location of Pain
Duration of Pain
Sinusitis can often be a trigger for migraine and tension-type headaches. So, it can be very complicated when more than one type of headache is occurring in the same patient.
See your doctor if you experience:
When patients come in complaining of sinus pain and pressure, our initial discussions focus on the various types of headaches. We do extensive personal history research to discover if they are, in fact, experiencing sinus headaches.
We also discuss their breathing. Many people are unaware of how poorly they breathe. The relationship between breathing and the headaches, or the pressure, can be considerable.
Other diagnostic tools can include a CT scan of the sinuses and an endoscopy to look through air passages in the nose to where they drain into the throat and larynx (voice box).
The most important thing we try to avoid when treating people with sinus headaches is the use of powerful pain medicine. In some cases, the chronic use of pain medication can potentially contribute to a sinus headache. We seek instead to remove the source of the pain by optimizing sinus health.
We consider a sinus headache a single piece of a much bigger puzzle. Beyond simply treating the pain, our goal is to uncover how the sinus headache may be interrelated to any number of other sinus factors.
The reality is that sinus headache is typically arising from a combination of different factors in the nose and sinuses. These different parts feedback into each other. By building a picture of the entire sinus and breathing system, we can better address the underlying cause rather than a single symptom like sinus headaches.
Our goal is to optimize the functioning of the sinuses and the nose. Medical options may include a variety of topical treatment, nutritional supplements, allergy evaluation, and systemic medications. Cases that do not improve in response to medical treatment may benefit from surgical treatment. As an expert sinus surgeon, Dr. Mark Agrama offers both awake balloon sinuplasty and traditional endoscopic sinus surgery for his patients.