If you have sinus infections over and over again it’s time to see the ENT. If the pain and pressure from sinus headaches is affecting the quality of your life and holding you back, it’s time to see the ENT. ENTs can determine the underlying cause of your sinus headaches and provide treatment for real, lasting relief.

What is a sinus headache?

A sinus headache is a dull headache you feel in the front of your face. It can feel like a deep or throbbing pain around your eyes, nose and cheeks. Leaning over or bending down can make the headache feel much worse.  A sinus headache is caused by inflammation in the sinuses.  A sinus headache may be mistaken for a migraine. A migraine headache will cause sensitivity to light, but a sinus headache will not.

Sinus headaches often start just as you are recovering from a cold or allergy attack. They may occur with changes in barometric pressure. Sinus headaches start with a feeling of pressure and the sinus area of your face may be tender to touch.  Along with the pain and pressure you may have these symptoms as well:

  • Stuffy nose
  • Yellow or green discharge from the nose
  • Thick mucus dripping down the back of the throat
  • Fatigue
  • Low-grade fever
  • Pain in the upper jaw or teeth

Sinus headaches may be worse in the morning and then get better as the day goes on. This can happen because the sinuses fill with mucus while you are laying down. If you are allergic to dust mites, additional mucus is created.  If you take a hot shower when you arise, this thins the mucous and helps promote drainage making the headache subside.

Causes of sinus headaches

The inability of the sinuses to drain properly causes sinus headaches. Sinusitis (or infection of the sinuses) is a cause of sinus headaches. In addition, if you have nasal polyps or swollen turbinates the sinuses can’t drain properly.  A deviated septum can block the sinus openings and this keeps the sinuses from draining. Uncontrolled allergies can lead to sinus infections and result in sinus headaches. Asthma or other chronic respiratory problems puts you at a higher risk for sinus headaches as well.

As a result of a cold, the sinuses can fill with mucous and the lining to the sinuses is inflamed. The inflammation keeps the sinuses from draining as they are designed. In addition, the mucous provides a place for bacteria to grow.  This can lead to a bacterial infection following a viral infection. 

ENT exam and treatment for sinus headaches

When you seek treatment for your sinus headaches from an ENT you are in good hands. First the ENT will review your medical history. As part of the exam the ENT may press on different areas of your face to see if they are tender. Your nasal passages and sinuses may be examined with an endoscope. This small instrument lets the ENT get a real-time view of your nasal passages.

 Be prepared to discuss your history of colds or allergies. The ENT may order allergy testing to be performed. Many sinus headaches are the result of uncontrolled allergies. Controlling the allergies controls the sinus headaches.

In addition, tests and images such as an x-ray, CT scan or an MRI may be ordered.   

The ENT is looking for the root cause of the inflammation and trying to determine why the sinuses are not draining.

Once the underlying condition is diagnosed it can be treated. This may involve decongestants, nasal or oral steroids, antibiotics or antihistamines. The ENT may show you nasal irrigation procedures to bring comfort. If the sinuses are obstructed, a balloon sinuplasty, septoplasty or functional endoscopic surgery may be necessary.