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.

Quick GuideSinus Infection (Sinusitis) Symptoms and Treatment Options

Sinus Infection (Sinusitis) Symptoms and Treatment Options

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.

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. Continue Reading

Reviewed on 10/30/2015
References
REFERENCE:

Rakel, D. and R. E. Rakel. Textbook of Family Medicine,98th ed. Saunders, 2015.

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