Sinus Headache

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Sinus headache facts

  • Sinuses are air spaces that develop from the nasal passages that help with air humidification and mucus secretion.
  • Inflammation of the sinuses may decrease the ability for the mucus to drain, increasing pressure within the sinuses and leading to a sinus headache. Common causes of inflammation include allergies or colds.
  • Diagnosis of sinus headache is often based on history and physical examination. Blood testing and X-rays are usually not required.
  • Treatment is directed at decreasing the inflammation within the sinus passages, allowing them to drain, and decreasing the pressure that is the cause of the headache. Antibiotics may not always be necessary.

What are the sinuses?

Sinuses of the face are cavities or spaces within the bones that help humidify air and secrete mucus to help with air filtration. Additionally, they contribute to the strength of the skull and its ability to resist trauma. The sinus cavities also allow more resonance to be added to the voice.

The sinuses are often referred to as the paranasal sinuses because of their location and connection to the back of the nose. The sinuses develop as air sacs within the bones of the skull and are named by their location.

  • Frontal sinus: located above the eyes within the frontal bone of the skull
  • Maxillary sinus: located beneath the eyes under the cheekbones within the maxilla bone of the face
  • Ethmoid sinus: located in the ethmoid bone separating the eyes from the nose
  • Sphenoid sinus: located in the sphenoid bone at the base of the skull

While infants do have sinuses, they are very poorly developed. The maxillary sinuses cannot be seen on an X-ray until 1 to 2 years of age, and the frontal sinuses are not seen until age 5 or 6.

Picture of the sinuses.
Picture of the sinuses.

Picture of the sinus cavities.
Picture of the sinus cavities.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/28/2014

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Sinus Headache Symptoms

Sinus problems and sinus-related symptoms are common reasons people see their doctors.