Sinus Headaches vs Sinus Infections

By Wake Sinus Center on 10 May 16 Sinus Headaches,Sinus Infections

Sinus Headaches vs Sinus Infections

sinus headacheIf you’ve ever had a sinus headache, you know how debilitating it can be. You feel a deep, nagging or throbbing pain in your cheekbones and forehead, around your eyes, and on the bridge of your nose. With any sudden head movement—for instance, jerking your head to look up or quickly turning your head around—the pain intensifies. What makes sinus headaches even worse are that they are usually accompanied by other sinus symptoms, such as nasal congestion, fever, and swelling in the face.

But what exactly is a sinus headache? Simply put, a sinus headache is pain or build-up of pressure that occurs when your sinuses are inflamed (swollen) and congested. Most of the time, the inflammation is due to a sinus infection (sinusitis). A sinus headache is actually one of the primary symptoms of sinusitis. Other possible causes of swelling and blockages in the nasal passages (which can lead to sinus headaches) include colds, a severe allergic reaction, or even a tumor.

Sinus Headache Symptoms

• Pressure or pain in the front of the face or behind the eyes.
• Tender skin and bones over and under the eyes.
• Pain that emanates from the eyes and goes towards the temples.
• Blurred vision with extreme headaches.
• Pain that worsens with bending forward, stooping downward or sudden movements.
• The head and face are tender to touch.
• Pain is worse in cold, damp weather, and in the morning (not as bad later in the day).

What is a sinus infection?

To truly understand the ins and outs of sinus headaches, it’s helpful to know something about sinusitis (sinus infection), since this condition is the ultimate cause of most sinus headaches. Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinuses—the bony cavities found behind the nose, eyes, brows and cheekbones.

blocked sinusesNormally, the sinuses are filled with air. When sinuses become blocked, mucus cannot drain. Fluid builds up inside the sinus cavities, trapping pathogens (bacteria, viruses and fungi) that multiply inside. This leads to infection, which can make the nasal passages even more clogged, resulting in even more swelling and congestion. All the congestion creates a vacuum effect within the sinuses, causing the mucus membrane within the cavities to be tugged away from the underlying tissue, creating pain and pressure.

Although a respiratory infection (such as a cold or influenza) is the most common cause of sinusitis, sinus infections can be brought on by anything that prevents the sinuses from draining. Other common causes of nasal obstructions—and ultimately, of sinusitis—include the following: allergies (such as hay fever), nasal polyps, tumors in the nose and sinuses, tooth infections, and structural issues such as narrowed drainage anatomy in the nose (deviated septum or enlarged turbinates).

There are two main forms of sinusitis: acute and chronic. Acute sinusitis is usually triggered by the common cold or seasonal allergies, and typically lasts for four weeks or less. Chronic sinusitis lasts for at least 8 to 12 weeks, often much longer (sometimes for years), and is typically caused by viral infections, growths in the nasal passage, or structural issues in the sinuses.

In addition to persistent sinus headaches, other sinusitis symptoms include:

• Stuffy nose.
• Fever and chills.
• Jaw and teeth pain (especially in the upper back teeth).
• Facial swelling or sensation of fullness the face.
• Thick nasal discharge (usually yellow or green color).
• Loss of sense of smell and/or taste.
• Bad breath and unpleasant taste in the back of the throat.

Usually the symptoms associated with acute sinusitis are more severe than those of chronic. However, chronic sinusitis is not something to ignore. Untreated chronic sinusitis can cause damage to the sinuses and cheekbones that sometimes requires surgery to repair. Furthermore, the infection can potentially spread to other parts of the head and body.

[Note: In general, if you only have headache pain but none of the other usual symptoms of sinusitis, chances are you have a migraine or tension headache, rather than a sinus headache.]

Treatment for Sinus Headaches and Infections

If you have a sinus headache, several at-home remedies can help alleviate the pain. Warm, moist air can relieve some of the congestion, so using a humidifier or steam vaporizer to add some moisture to the air inside your home may help. Another step you might take is to place hot and cold compresses across your sinuses; alternate with hot and cold compresses for several minutes each, and do this several times a day or as needed. You may also want to use over-the-counter medications (aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen, or a combination) to relieve some of the pain.

Ultimately, though the best way to relieve sinus headaches is to address the underlying cause. If your sinus pressure is due to allergies then decongestants, antihistamines and nasal steroid sprays may be recommended. If your sinus headache is due to sinusitis, you will need to address that condition. If your doctor thinks a bacterial infection is the root cause of your problems, he or she may also prescribe an antibiotic.

balloon sinuplasty processIf you’ve got acute sinusitis, the infection will usually go away on its own, after about four weeks, without medical therapy. However, you may still want to treat your acute with over-the-counter medications to relieve some of the discomfort. Nasal corticosteroid sprays can reduce sinus inflammation, while decongestants help dry up mucus.

With chronic sinusitis, all of the remedies just mentioned may help relieve discomfort. If not, surgery may be recommended. But that doesn’t mean you have to undergo a traditional operation in the hospital. Today, a very effective, cutting-edge procedure is available for treating chronic sinus infections: Balloon Sinuplasty™. This minimally-invasive, in-office procedure uses a small sinus balloon catheter to open up blocked sinus passageways and restore normal sinus drainage and function. Balloon Sinuplasty™ takes approximately 30 minutes to perform. Patients are able to drive to and from the appointment, have minimal discomfort afterwards, and are able to return to work right away. Best of all, relief is instant—and long lasting.

Contact Wake Sinus Center

If you are suffering from the symptoms of a sinus infection or sinus pain that has not responded to at-home or over-the-counter medications and the condition has persisted for several weeks, call Wake Sinus Center at (919)-851-5636 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Gupta. We will have you feeling better in no time!


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