Sinus Headache (cont.)
Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- Sinus headache facts
- What are the sinuses?
- What is a sinus headache?
- What causes a sinus headache?
- What are the symptoms of a sinus headache?
- When should I seek medical care for a sinus headache?
- How is a sinus headache diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for a sinus headache? Do home remedies work?
- What are the complications of a sinus headache?
- Can a sinus headache be prevented?
- What is the prognosis for a sinus headache?
- Find a local Ear, Nose, & Throat Doctor in your town
What is a sinus headache?
If the lining of the ducts or tubes that connect the sinuses to the back of the nose becomes inflamed, the sinuses may not be able to drain normally, and pressure may build up within the blocked sinus. There may also be associated swelling and inflammation of the lining of the sinuses, resulting in increased mucus and fluid secretion. This increase in fluid and pressure causes the pain of a sinus headache. The term sinusitis is used to describe inflammation of the sinus (sinus + itis = inflammation).
What causes a sinus headache?
While a sinus inflammation (sinusitis) may be caused by a viral infection, much like a cold that causes swelling in the nose, the inflammation and decreased ability of the sinuses to drain may also be caused by an allergic reaction like hay fever. Inflammation, like anywhere else in the body, causes swelling and increased fluid production. In the sinuses, this decreases the ability of the sinuses to drain. The increased inflammatory fluid production (just like the weeping observed with a skin injury) combines with the decrease in drainage to cause the pain and pressure of a sinus headache.
Nature does not like stagnant fluid, and after a period of time, bacteria and viruses may travel from the nasal cavities into the stagnant fluid within the sinus cavity and cause an infection. Most sinus infections are viral in nature. This is more likely if symptoms have been present for less than a week and are not getting worse. Bacterial infections typically will follow the initial period of inflammation from a viral infection or other significant sinus blockage. Less commonly, fungal infections may cause a sinus infection, and even more rarely, tumors can invade the sinus.
The maxillary sinus sits underneath the eye within the cheekbone. The upper teeth attach to the lower portion of this bone, and dental infections can travel up the root of the tooth and infect the sinus directly.
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