Sinus Headache

  • Medical Author:
    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.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    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.

View 10 Common Allergy Triggers Slideshow Pictures

Quick GuideSinusitis Pictures Slideshow: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

Sinusitis Pictures Slideshow: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

What is a sinus headache?

If the linings of the ducts or tubes that connect the sinuses to the back of the nose become 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 combined with the inability to drain increases pressure within the sinus cavity, causing the pain of a sinus headache. The term sinusitis is used to describe inflammation of the sinus.

What causes a sinus headache?

While a sinus inflammation (sinusitis) may be caused by a viral infection and causes swelling in the nose (inflammation). This inflammation and decreased ability of the sinuses to drain also may be caused by an allergic reaction such as hay fever. The inflammation causes swelling and increased fluid production. In the sinuses, this decreases the ability of the sinuses to drain. This increased inflammatory fluid production and the decrease in drainage causes the pain and pressure of a sinus headache.

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 due to viruses. Viruses are the more likely cause 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.

Because there is almost always nasal inflammation associated with sinus inflammation, the illness is now often referred to as rhinosinusitis.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/30/2015
VIEW PATIENT COMMENTS
  • Sinus Headache - Cause

    What was the cause of your sinus headache?

    Post View 2 Comments
  • Sinus Headache - Symptoms

    What symptoms did you experience with your sinus headache?

    Post View 12 Comments
  • Sinus Headache - Remedies

    What home remedies have you found helpful in treating your sinus headaches?

    Post View 5 Comments
  • Sinus Headache - Experience

    Please describe your experience with sinus headache.

    Post View 7 Comments
  • Sinus Headache - Complications

    Have you experienced complications from a sinus headache? If so, please relate your experience.

    Post View 3 Comments

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors