Signs and symptoms of sinus headaches — regardless of cause — may include:
- Pain, pressure and fullness in your cheeks, brow or forehead
- Worsening pain if you bend forward or lie down
- Stuffy nose
- Achy feeling in your upper teeth
Sinusitis or migraine?
Migraines and headaches from sinusitis are easy to confuse because the signs and symptoms of the two types of headaches often overlap.
Both sinusitis and migraine headache pain often gets worse when you bend forward. Migraine can also be accompanied by various nasal signs and symptoms — including congestion, facial pressure and a clear, watery nasal discharge. In fact, studies have shown that approximately 90 percent of people who see a doctor for sinus headaches are found to have migraines instead.
Sinusitis, however, usually isn't associated with nausea or vomiting or aggravated by noise or bright light — all common features of migraines.
Sinusitis usually occurs after a viral upper respiratory infection or cold and includes thick, discolored nasal mucus, decreased sense of smell, and pain in one cheek or upper teeth.
When to see a doctor
Consult your doctor if:
Mar. 18, 2015
- Your headache symptoms occur more than 15 days a month or require frequent over-the-counter pain medicine
- You have a severe headache, and over-the-counter pain medicine doesn't help
- You miss school or work because of frequent headaches or the headaches interfere with your daily life
- Patel ZM, et al. Evaluation and management of "sinus headache" in the otolaryngology practice. Otolaryngology Clinics of North America. 2014;47:269.
- Sinusitis. The Merck Manual Professional Edition. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/ear_nose_and_throat_disorders/nose_and_paranasal_sinus_disorders/sinusitis.html?qt=sinus%20headache&sc=&alt=sh. Accessed Jan. 23, 2015.
- Levine H, et al. Why the confusion about sinus headache? Otolaryngology Clinics of North America. 2014;47:169.
- Sinus infection (sinusitis). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/getsmart/antibiotic-use/URI/sinus-infection.html. Accessed Jan. 23, 2015.
- Bajwa CH, et al. Headache syndrome other than migraine. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 24, 2015.
- Sinus headaches. American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery. http://www.entnet.org/content/sinus-headaches. Accessed Jan. 23, 2015.
- O'Brien EK (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Feb. 2, 2015.
- Headache: Hope through research. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/headache/detail_headache.htm#142883138. Accessed Jan. 19, 2015.
- Bajwa ZH, et al. Acute treatment of migraine in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 12, 2015.
- Chai NC, et al. Migraine and estrogen. Current Opinion in Neurology. 2014;27:315.
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