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 are the symptoms of a sinus headache?

Pain and pressure are the primary symptoms of a sinus headache, usually due to the increased inflammation and decreased drainage from the affected sinus cavity. The pain of a sinus headache is often described as an increasing pressure sensation overlying the sinus that is blocked. This may be the cheek area (maxillary), the forehead (frontal area), or both. The part of the face in the area of the affected sinus can be tender to touch and reddened. Swelling also may occur. The pain can increase with changing position of the head, or when first getting up out of bed, again because of increased pressure within the sinus cavities.

Symptoms with sinus infection

  • If an infection is present, there may be fever, chills, malaise (feeling poorly), or myalgias (achy muscles).
  • Opaque or greenish-yellow nasal drainage may occur.
  • There may be postnasal drainage, in which secretions drip down to the back of the throat. This can cause a cough and patients sometimes complain about coughing up yellow sputum. However, they may actually be coughing up the drainage that has dripped down from the sinuses instead of coughing up phlegm from the lungs.
  • Swollen lymph nodes (swollen glands) may occur in the neck if an infection is present, which is no different than the swelling of lymph nodes that accompanies an acute sore throat (pharyngitis) or ear infection (otitis media).

Symptoms with sinus inflammation

  • If there is sinus inflammation without infection, the drainage may be clear.
  • If the maxillary sinus is inflamed, pain may also be felt in the upper teeth since the sinus is located within the bone that holds those teeth.
  • Pain also may radiate to the temples, back of the neck, or top of the head.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/30/2015
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