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Sinus Headache

What is a Sinus Headache?

Many patients (and their physicians) mistakenly believe that their headaches are coming from problems with their sinuses. In actuality - according to a group of otolaryngologists, neurologists, and allergists - sinus headaches are probably quite rare, and usually only associated with acute sinus infections. A true sinus infection comes with nasal congestion, discharge, focal pain, and even fever. It will not improve without drainage and antibiotics. Thus, an intermittent headache on the face that gets better with pain relievers or decongestants is probably not at all due to the sinuses.

Most often, people with “sinus” headaches have normal or nearly normal CT scans of their sinuses, confirming that their pain is due to some other type of headache. Even chronic sinus problems are not thought to be a common cause of intermittent headaches. Over 90% of patients who think they are having sinus headaches are actually experiencing migraines.

There are rare exceptions. Some people may suffer from “contact point” headaches caused by internal nasal structures pressing up against each other. CT scans or endoscopy can help diagnose this condition, as can the use of local anesthetics to attempt to block the source of the pain.

The Johns Hopkins Headache Center providers include otolaryngologists (ear-nose-throat specialists) who can assess and treat cases involving sinus problems.

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