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What Causes Sinus Headaches?

Headaches often occur at the most inopportune moments and can keep you from enjoying everyday activities and even completing work. Symptoms may include blurred vision, throbbing pain, nausea, or lightheadedness. Mild headaches can be distracting, but those that are more severe can be debilitating.

Many people associate facial pain or pressure with a sinus headache. However, what they are experiencing is actually a tension headache or a migraine. Migraines produce pain in the lower-end of the trigeminal (the fifth cranial nerve) which has branches directly adjacent to the sinus cavity. Understandably, it is very easy to misdiagnose your pain.

When you are healthy, your sinuses allow air to circulate through the nasal passages and drain mucus normally. If your sinuses become inflamed, the mucus becomes a blockage, which allows bacteria and viruses to fester, grow and spread quickly.

A true sinus headache is caused by sinusitis, the inflammation of the tissue lining the sinuses, causing sinus congestion. The symptoms are usually an achy feeling in the upper teeth, or pain and pressure around the eyes, cheeks, and forehead.

In addition to headaches, sinusitis patients experience symptoms similar to the common cold, such as fever/chills, nasal stuffiness, facial swelling, or yellow/green discharge. Pain is sometimes worsened by bending down or leaning over. Because sinus headaches are related to changes in the atmospheric pressure, cold or damp weather can also be detrimental.

Anyone can get a sinus headache, but you are at greater risk if you:

  • Frequently swim or dive

  • Climb or fly to high altitudes

  • Have a history of allergies or asthma

  • Have any of the following:

  1. Cleft palate

  2. Deviated septum

  3. Nasal bone spurs

  4. Nasal or facial tumor

  5. Nasal polyps or swellings in the nasal passage

Sinusitis is usually the product of a respiratory infection or allergies, but it can be caused by anything that prevents the sinuses from draining properly. For more information on sinus headaches or to schedule a consultation, please call our expert staff at Marvel Clinic at 931-455-2005.

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