Migraine or Sinus Headache? How to Tell the Difference

Is it a Migraine or Sinus Headache? How to Tell the Difference

Migraine or Sinus Headache

Having a headache can be a major nuisance, especially a painful one. While it may be easier to block out a minor headache, you want it to stop when you are experiencing a severe headache. However, there are different types of headaches, and knowing which one you are dealing with can help you get to the root of your problem. When it comes to headaches, misdiagnosis happens, and that can be a real problem. If you’ve been misdiagnosed, it can lead to the wrong treatment methods and extend the length of your suffering. When a person is wondering if their pain source is due to a migraine or sinus headache, it helps to know the difference between these two conditions.

When you are in pain, it can be hard to tell the difference between a migraine or sinus headache, but knowing the correct diagnosis can lead to a more successful treatment.

Migraine or Sinus Headache: What are the Symptoms?


• Nausea
• Vomiting
• Pain that gets worse when being physically active
• Light sensitivity (can be intense)
• Sound sensitivity (can be intense)
• Throbbing or pulsing pain
• Pain affects one side of the head or both sides
• Runny nose
• Stuffy nose
• Tearing of the eyes
• Seeing visual disturbances
• Numbness or tingling in face or hands

Sinus Headaches:

• Runny nose
• Stuffy nose
• Fever
• Soreness around upper teeth
• Pressure/pain around eyes, cheeks, and forehead
• Fatigue
• Decreased sense of smell

How Can I Tell the Two Apart?

• While the two conditions have similar symptoms, typical migraine symptoms such as visual disturbances, nausea, vomiting, severe headaches, and light and sound sensitivity is a tell-tale sign that your pain is stemming from a migraine.
• When you have sinusitis, having a fever indicates that your headache pain stems from infection and not from a migraine. Also, having thick, greenish nasal mucus is another key indicator that your pain is related to sinusitis and not from a migraine.
• Migraines can be triggered by multiple different factors, such as loud noises, bright lights, hormonal changes, changes in barometric pressure, high levels of stress, overexertion, and even from consuming certain foods and drinks.
• Another difference is timing, as sinusitis can occur after having a bout with an upper respiratory infection, such as the flu or the common cold. So, if your headache occurs after a bout of sickness, it’s probably due to sinusitis.
• Migraines, while painful, typically don’t last too long (thankfully!). A migraine attack can last anywhere between 4 and 72 hours, while sinusitis can ease up within 7 days or faster if treatment of the underlying issue is accurate and successful.

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