Home

Sinus Headaches

One of the most common problems associated with the sinuses is pain and pressure-sinus headaches. The good news is that the vast majority of sinus headache problems are readily cured.

These may range from a mild occasional pressure sensation to severe and chronic pain. Individuals who suffer from other forms of headaches such as migraine problems may experience worsening of their symptoms when the sinuses are affected.

The basic mechanism for causing this problem is ultimately blockage of openings leading to the sinuses. One basically becomes a "human barometer." Many individuals may note that the sinus headaches worsen at times of weather changes and they may experience pressure changes from flying or even driving up a hill.

Areas affected may be varied and often multiple with referred pain pathways being common. The pattern may be quite different person to person. The common regions would be overlying the sinuses in the cheeks, between the eyes, in the brow and forehead, and behind the eyes. Referred pain regions commonly include the temples, the top of the head, and regions around the ears.

Related Factors

Sinus headaches may occur in individuals who also have other sinus problems such as allergy or infection but may also be the only problem an individual experiences. Common related problems include:
  • Infections which may be chronic or episodic in nature
  • Allergy or environmental sensitivity problems
  • Nasal polyps
  • Nasal obstruction-this may or may not be associated- some patients with severe sinus headaches have normal nasal airways.

Diagnosis

One of the most valuable tools is simply a detailed history and description that you provide to our physicians. There are many clues that may point to the sinuses as the source of headaches. Depending upon the initial assessment additional diagnostic means may be recommended including nasal endoscopy (examining the nasal passages with a thin endoscope) and/or a CT scan of the sinuses.

Treatment

Options for treatment are based upon the severity and the chronicity of the sinus headaches. In most cases the initial treatment will consist in the use of medications designed to encourage obstructed regions to open and relieve the problem. The most valuable products are anti-inflammatory sprays and anti-histamine sprays. Oral tablets are not as useful other than for temporary relief. If there is an active infection then the use of an antibiotic may be recommended. In some cases putting a potent anti-inflammatory medication directly into the nasal tissues (essentially painless) may offer dramatic and rapid relief.

Allergy testing and treatment may be of benefit as well.

If sinus headaches are more persistent, then a CT scan is obtained and reviewed in detail to see the likely sources of obstruction. If appropriate a simple procedure to unobstructed and restore ventilation to the affected areas may offer dramatic and usually permanent relief.

This form of surgical treatment is gentle with no bruising or swelling and no packing is used. Recovery is rapid, mimicking cold symptoms for a few days, generally with only mild discomfort.