Is It a Sinus Headache or a Sinus Infection?
Headaches are common ailments that get mistakenly self-diagnosed far too often. This is especially true when headaches originate from the nasal region and sinuses.
It’s important to know the differences in causes, symptoms, and treatments between sinus headaches and sinus infections since the best ways to handle these seemingly related afflictions is quite different.
All About Sinus Headaches
Sinus headaches are caused by sinusitis, which is an infection in the sinuses, and they are marked by feelings of pressure around the eyes, on the cheeks, and across the forehead. People who suffer from these types of headaches also experience throbbing pain in the head.
Unfortunately, many people who believe they have this type of headache actually have an undiagnosed migraine or tension headache instead and are treating it ineffectively. It’s easy to mistake a migraine for a sinus headache because the symptoms are similar. A key difference is that sinus headache sufferers don’t typically have adverse reactions to bright lights and loud noise.
Sinus headaches are usually at their worst first thing in the morning, and can also be affected by temperature changes.
All About Sinus Infections
A sinus infection is called sinusitis and caused when the nasal cavities swell and become inflamed. This condition is caused by a virus that often lasts longer than the average cold that brought it on. The condition can also be triggered by nasal polyps and allergies. It can be acute or chronic, lasting several months or recurring frequently.
There’s no denying that sinusitis is painful, but that pain will be centralized behind the nose and below the eyes. This is not necessarily the same pain as headache pain; however, it could lead to a headache over time. The most common symptoms of a sinus infection are yellow-green nasal discharge, nasal congestion, cough, and sore throat.
Headaches Related to Nasal Problems
There are many different reasons for head pain due to nasal issues. For example, headaches due to rhinosinusitis are frontal headaches that involve facial pain and even pain in the ears and teeth. This type of pain typically goes away within seven days of treatment.
Nerve inflammation or reduced oxygen saturation may also cause headaches that are related to nasal problems. According to the American Rhinologic Society, septal deviation and inferior turbinate hypertrophy may contribute to sleep apnea, which can cause an excruciating headache first thing in the morning.
Treating Sinus Headaches
If a headache is a solitary symptom, chances are it may be a migraine or a tension headache instead. Sinus infections, on the other hand, are almost always accompanied by other symptoms that resemble those of the common cold.
Tough headache pain is no match for this powerful combination of acetaminophen, aspirin, and a low dose of caffeine. Hot and cold compresses, saline sprays, ginger, and acupressure may relieve some of the pain associated with sinus headaches as well.
Treating Sinus Infections
To treat a sinus infection, many doctors will recommend a nasal decongestant spray to relieve the pain and pressure for the short-term. Over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants may help relieve sinusitis, although they are typically not as effective for sinus headache pain. Sinus infections may or may not be accompanied by headaches, but when they are, multiple treatments may be required to address varied symptoms.
To prevent future sinus infections, it’s a wise idea to avoid allergens, chemical cleaning supplies, and cigarettes. Sinus infections are particularly common in children, and a telltale sign that a child has one includes a cold that doesn’t go away after a couple weeks and thick, discolored nasal drainage.
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