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Sinus Headache - Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment.

Published on Mar 15, 2023 and last reviewed on Mar 27, 2023   -  5 min read


Sinus headaches are characterized by pain and pressure in the face and sinus spaces. Read the article below.


Sinus headache is a symptom of sinus infection characterized by pressure and pain in the sinus spaces (sinusitis), face, and eyes. Sinus infection can be triggered by a cold or allergy. It is usually associated with migraine and nasal symptoms. Sinus pain can be experienced on one side of the head.

What Is Sinus?

Sinuses are hollow spaces behind the cheekbone, head, and nose. The sinus produces mucus, which traps dust and harmful particles as air travels through the sinus space to the lungs.

What Are the Sinuses in the Head?

The paranasal sinuses are hollow spaces around the eyes and nose in the skull; They are present to

  • Decrease the weight of the head.

  • Enhance the resonance of the voice.

  • Protects the face against any trauma.

  • Control the temperature inside the nose.

The sinus also produces mucus that helps to trap dust, allergens, bacteria, and viruses and prevent them from reaching the inside of the body. If mucus builds up, there are chances of sinus infection or sinusitis. In addition, there is a thin lining at the surface of the node, so any nose infections affect the sinus, which is more prone to infections.

What Is a Sinus Headache?

The sinus headache is confused with migraine with a nasal infection. Sinus headaches are caused due to infections in the sinus called sinusitis. It causes pain and pressure in the head, eyes, and cheeks.

What Are the Causes of Sinus Headache?

Infection in the sinus causes sinus headaches. Any condition that builds up mucus leads to sinus headaches; some conditions are

Too much mucus allows the growth of germs, and as they build up, they cause irritation of the sinus, which in response causes swelling of the sinus tissue, and blocks the passage of mucus to drain. It makes a face feel tender and painful as the sinus is filled with liquid.

Does Allergy Trigger Sinus Headaches?

Allergies do not cause sinus headaches; they can cause a stuffy nose that results in infection, pain, and pressure.

What Are the Symptoms of Sinus Headache?

The symptoms of a sinus headache include

  1. Nasal congestion.

  2. Runny nose.

  3. Nasal discharge that is green or yellow.

  4. Decreased sense of smell.

  5. Pressure behind the eyes and forehead.

  6. Pain increases when the person bends forward.

  7. Fever.

  8. Fatigue.

  9. Swollen face.

What Does the Pressure Feel Like?

The pain and pressure are felt in the head and anywhere in the sinus, where the pressure and pain are felt depending on the sinus affected. Generally, the pressure is felt around and behind the eyes, cheeks, and nose area; it can also extend forward to the teeth in the upper jaw or backward to the back of the head. Swelling or puffiness of the face can occur.

What Is the Difference Between Sinus Headaches and Migraine?

Migraine and sinus headaches are mostly misdiagnosed. Migraine is caused along the trigeminal nerve, which includes the sinus passage; the person with a migraine headache tends to think of a sinus headache. The symptoms of migraine pain are similar to a sinus headache, characterized by a runny nose or nasal congestion. The treatment of sinus headache is different from that of sinus headache; the symptoms of migraine headache are;

  1. Nausea.

  2. Dizziness.

  3. Vomiting.

  4. Light and sound sensitivity.

  5. Clear mucus discharge.

What Is the Diagnosis of Sinus Headaches?

A proper diagnosis should be made as most of the time, there is confusion between migraine and sinus headache. The physician does a physical examination and asks about the symptoms.

An imaging test is done if the symptoms are ongoing and severe. An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is done as it reveals any brain conditions, including

What Is the Treatment for Sinus Headaches?

Should treat the underlying cause to treat the sinus headache. Can reduce the pressure or pain of sinusitis at home through various methods, such as

  • Provide a warm compress to the painful area of the face.

  • Use a decongestant that decreases the swelling and allows the mucus to drain.

  • To thin mucus, try saline spray or drops.

  • Warm moist air helps relieve sinus congestion, where vaporizer or steam is used.

How Is a Sinus Infection Treated?

Viruses, bacteria, or fungi usually cause a sinus infection. If it is a virus, no treatment is needed. However, antifungal and antibacterial medications are recommended in bacterial or fungal infection cases.

  1. Antihistamines that prevent allergy symptoms.

  2. Decongestants that decrease swelling in the face.

  3. Painkillers.

  4. Steroids that are used to reduce inflammation.

What Are the Risk Factors?

Certain habits or health conditions can increase the risk of sinus headaches; these are

  • Structural differences like polyps or a deviated septum.

  • Weak immune system.

  • Cystic fibrosis.

  • Sensitive to allergy.

  • Nasal exposure to toxins like tobacco or cocaine.

  • Overuse of decongestants.

How Can Sinus Headaches Be Prevented?

If the person experiences recurring sinus headaches or sinus headaches due to allergies, then they must follow the prescribed medicine to handle the condition. Lifestyle changes like avoiding allergens and practicing aerobic exercise might decrease the frequency of occurrence of sinus headaches. A balloon sinuplasty surgery is the only remedy for chronic sinus headaches.

How Can Recurring Sinus Headaches Be Treated?

Most of the sinus headaches that recur are migraines. These recurring headaches can be controlled by controlling the triggers that cause the headache; some triggers are

  1. Alcohol.

  2. Caffeine.

  3. Chocolate, red wine, and cheese.

  4. Inadequate sleep.

  5. Stress and depression.

What Are the Complications?

In rare cases, the region around the eye can be inflamed and swollen; this may even affect vision. Some symptoms should be immediately consulted with the doctor, such as persistent fever, discolored nasal discharge, rattling in the chest, and breathing difficulties.


Sinus headache is usually caused by infections that occur in the sinus space called sinusitis. It is characterized by pain and pressure in the head, behind the eyes, cheeks, and nose. The common cause of sinus headaches is cold. Sinus headaches may be migraines, which have the same symptoms as nasal congestion. Treatment of sinus headaches is based on lifestyle changes and avoiding any triggering factor that causes pain and pressure. In sporadic cases, surgery is required.

Last reviewed at:
27 Mar 2023  -  5 min read




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