Headaches can be the result of numerous different causes. One potentially overlooked precipitator is nasal sinus problems. Sometimes, a medical condition known as sinusitis may be the culprit.
The nasal sinuses are four pockets of cavities situated in the forehead, cheekbones and between the eyes. Should these spaces become infiltrated with microbes like bacteria or viruses and other irritants or allergens, said regions could become inflamed. Such inflammation precipitates an infection called sinusitis. (Image Credit: Public Domain Pictures/ Pixabay)
Sinus infections can be acute, sub-acute or chronic. Acute infections typically linger anywhere from two to four weeks depending on the specific pathogen. Sub-acute cases can last for up to three months. Chronic conditions often produce less severe physical manifestations but may last at least three months or longer.
Sinus infections, regardless of the differentiation, can be precipitated by numerous different causes including a preceding common cold or other upper respiratory infection, nasal allergies, cigarette smoking, the presence of nasal polyps, a nasal bone deformity known as a deviated septum and certain dental infections.
Many symptoms of sinus infections are similar to those seen in colds and nasal allergies such as nasal congestion, a runny nose, coughing, diminished sense of smell, tiredness, scratchy throat and increased systemic production and expectoration of mucus. Occasionally, the mucus can become thick, yellow or even green.
One potential manifestation of an acute or chronic sinus condition is the presence of facial pressure and potentially bad headaches. These headaches typically produce certain distinct features including discomfort in the forehead, upper cheeks just under the eyes and the areas surrounding the eyebrows. This pain may be exacerbated by quickly bending forward or lying down and can be accompanied by aches in the upper teeth.
Another key determining factor stricken individuals should consider is when the headaches started. If discomfort began a few days to a week or two after suffering a cold or allergy attack, there is a good chance associated headaches are sinus-related.
Stricken individuals are encouraged to seek medical evaluation if their headaches recur for at least 15 days per month, do not respond well to over-the-counter preparations or said issues interfere with their ability to perform everyday tasks.
Dr. Ran Rubinstein, an expert sinus doctor of Hudson Valley, details signs and symptoms to look out for relating to sinus headaches, including treatment options and how it’s diagnosed. Your doctor/ medical professional will perform a thorough physical examination and if they suspect an acute or chronic sinus infection, they will likely feel the patient’s face to discern if the area surrounding the nose, cheeks, and forehead is tender or swollen. Should such examination prove inconclusive, the physician in question might examine the inside of the patient’s nose.
If the initial investigation fails to confirm suspicions, further testing might include sinus probing using a fiber-optic lighted device, administer Computerized Tomography, better known as CT scans or Magnetic Resonance Imaging, an MRI to gain internal images of the sinus cavities. Other diagnostic endeavors might include obtaining a mucus sample and investigating said culture in a laboratory.
Potential Treatment Options
Treating sinus infections and alleviating associated headaches often hinges on identifying the specific underlying cause and said malady’s severity. That said, common treatment options include:
- Antibiotics: If the infection is precipitated by bacterial infiltration, a course of antibiotics might eradicate the pathogen and thereby eliminate associated symptoms such as headaches.
- Steroids: Nasal corticosteroids might reduce inflammation and soothe sinus tissue.
- Saline Spray: This type of nasal spray contains saline, a salt solution that cleans nasal passageways and surrounding sinuses and reduces incidents of inflammation.
- Surgery: In severe cases where the culprit is nasal polyps or when tissue damage is extensive, surgical intervention to remove diseased sinus regions might be indicated.
Some afflicted individuals find relief from sinus infections and associated headaches by employing certain natural remedies such as:
- Steam: Steam produces humidity that can loosen hardened collections of mucus. This action can open nasal passageways and reduce inflammation.
- Eating Spicy Foods: For those whose digestive tracts can tolerate the ingestion of spicy food, such products can open blocked sinus passages.
- Alternating Cold And Hot Compress: Certain individuals witness relief from sinus pressure after applying hot and sold rags to painful areas. For maximum effectiveness, this process should be repeated several times per day.
- Avoid Potential Triggers: Individuals, especially those with a chronic sinus condition are strongly urged to avoid places and products that may trigger nasal symptoms. Physicians suggest refraining from vices such as alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking, limiting potentially exacerbating actions like swimming or airline travel, keeping one’s living and workspaces free of dust and dirt and immediately addressing any cold or nasal allergy.
Healthcare professionals caution that sinus headaches are often mistaken for potentially more serious migraines. Oftentimes, migraines also precipitate symptoms like facial pain and pressure over the forehead and upper cheekbones. However, said condition typically also elicits physical manifestations such as nausea and intense sensitivity to light. Any stricken individual who has not been diagnosed with either condition is strongly advised to obtain a medical evaluation.