What’s the Difference? Migraines and Sinus Infections

What’s the Difference? Migraines and Sinus Infections

Stuck in an endless cycle of headaches and pain relievers? Time to get to the bottom of your symptoms. Often, there is confusion between sinus headaches and migraines. The two types of aches can both be tricky to tackle, but they need different courses of treatment that can — ultimately — help you find relief faster.


First, here’s what sinus headaches and migraines usually have in common:

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  • Forehead pain (or general aches throughout the head)
  • Watery eyes
  • Pain that varies with movement


But migraines usually have a few extra symptoms, such as:

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  • Sensitivity to light
  • Extra intolerance to sound
  • Pulsing or throbbing pain on one side of the head
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Studies have shown that in many cases, people who self-diagnose themselves with sinus headaches actually are dealing with migraines. In a large study with almost 30,000 participants, only about half the people who had migraines knew that they did. The most common misconception? An assumption of a “sinus headache.”

Sinus headaches are usually treated with:

  • OTC pain relievers
  • Decongestants
  • Antibiotics, if the sinus headache is due to a bacterial infection
  • Corticosteroids

Migraine treatments, on the other hand, generally are longer-term, since they focus on both treatment and prevention. Common approaches include:

  • Prescription drugs, such as triptans or medicines used for epilepsy, high blood pressure and other conditions
  • Botox injections
  • Hormone therapy
  • Stress-reduction therapy

Even with these guidelines, each case is unique. If you’re not sure how to deal with your sinus headaches and migraines, give our NYC sinus center a call. We’ll discuss a personalized plan that suits your symptoms, situation and lifestyle.

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The Staff and Doctors of The New York Otolaryngology Group