Sinus headache refers to head and facial pain associated with inflammation of the sinuses (called sinusitis). The sinuses are hollow cavities in the skull that have openings into the nose. Colds and allergies cause inflammation of the nasal passages and can lead to sinusitis. Sinus headache is a symptom of sinusitis.
Sinus Headache: Areas of Pain
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Allergies and viral upper respiratory infections increase nasal secretions and cause tissue lining the nasal passages to swell. This results in nasal congestion and stuffiness. The nasal passages become blocked and normal drainage cannot occur. Secretions that are trapped in the sinuses may become infected with bacteria or, rarely, fungus. The swollen tissue or infection may create pain and pressure.
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. Risk factors for sinus headache include:
Symptoms of sinus headache may include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Your nasal secretions may be tested for allergies and infection.
If you suffer from chronic sinusitis, tests may include:
Sinus headache treatment aims to:
Treatment may include:
Medications may include:
Surgery is usually not required. Patients with a structural abnormality or chronic sinusitis that does not respond to medications may benefit from surgery. The doctor may perform one of several procedures to clean out your sinus cavities.
If you are diagnosed with a sinus headache, follow your doctor's instructions.
The following strategies may reduce the risk of getting a sinus headache:
American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
Allergy Asthma Information Association
Calgary Allergy Network
Cady RK, Dodick DW, et al. Sinus headache: a neurology, otolaryngology, allergy, and primary care consensus on diagnosis and treatment. Mayo Clinic Proc. 2005;80:908-816.
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Goetz CG, Pappert EJ. Textbook of Clinical Neurology. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Co; 1999.
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National Headache Foundation website. Available at: http://www.headaches.org. Accessed July 9, 2009.
Sinus headache. American Academy of Otolaryngology website. Available at: http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/sinusHeadache.cfm. Accessed July 9, 2009.
Sinus headaches. American Rhinologic Society website. Available at: http://www.american-rhinologic.org. Accessed July 9, 2009.
Sinus problems. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America website. Available at: http://www.aafa.org. Updated 2005. Accessed July 9, 2009.
Last reviewed September 2011 by Elie Edmond Rebeiz, MD, FACS
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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