Sinus Headache or Migraine? How to Tell the Difference

Sinus Headache or Migraine? How to Tell the Difference

HeadacheYour head is throbbing. You can’t concentrate. You wonder how you’ll ever get relief. You could be suffering from a sinus headache – or it could be migraine symptoms. When you’re in pain, how can you tell the difference?

A WebMD study has shown that among people who think they suffer from sinus headaches, up to 90 percent actually could be suffering from migraine symptoms. Although both can prove excruciating, the correct diagnosis can lead to more successful – and quicker – treatment.

Symptoms of sinus headaches can include:

  • Intense pain in the forehead, cheekbones or bridge of the nose
  • An increasing ache with sudden movements
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Facial swelling
  • Yellow or green nasal discharge
  • A “full” sensation in the ears

These symptoms can indicate a migraine:

  • Sensitivity to light, sounds or smells
  • Throbbing pain in one of both sides of the head
  • Clear nasal discharge
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Diarrhea
  • Faintness
  • Reduced pain in 4 to 72 hours without treatment

Many migraine symptoms strike when the seasons change, so it’s not uncommon for these types of severe headaches to be accompanied by nasal congestion – which can lead sufferers to assume (incorrectly) that they’re suffering from sinusitis.

When over-the-counter medications are taken and prove effective on a headache, people commonly assume they beat a sinus infection, when in reality, the painkiller simply shrunk the migraine-induced swollen blood vessels. A medical professional can prescribe proper antibiotics or pain medication to deal with the headache in question.

When you suffer an intense headache, it’s better to visit a doctor to get treatment advice than to describe your symptoms over the phone. Anytime pain strikes, we’ll be here for you.

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The Staff and Doctors of The New York Otolaryngology Group