Stuffy nose, itchy watery eyes, and a runny nose – these are the signs of a sinus headache, right? Not necessarily.
In four out of five cases people are really experiencing a migraine, according to WebMD, and neurology professor Peter Goadsby, MD, at the University of California who says that it’s a widespread misconception.
The Mayo Clinic notes that it’s easy to confuse a migraine with a sinus headache because the symptoms often overlap. In fact, they explain that in around 90% of cases where people visit a doctor complaining of a sinus headache, they’re really experiencing a
This is because the symptoms are easy to confuse. In both cases the headache pain gets worse when you bend forward, and can be accompanied by nasal congestion, pressure, and discharge.
It’s generally a migraine though when patients suffer from nausea, pain on one side of the head, sensitivity to light or noise, or vomiting. Sinusitis usually begins after a cold or upper respiratory infection and is accompanied with pain in one cheek or the upper teeth, a decreased sense of smell, and thick, discoloured mucous, the Mayo Clinic explains.
If the pain is debilitating and comes and goes, it’s more than likely a migraine, says neurology professor at Thomas Jefferson University, Stephen Silberstein, contributor to WebMD. People with a sinus headache don’t generally complain of headache pain first, he notes, they generally feel sick first and have a headache. Debilitating pain as your first symptom may mean that it’s really a migraine.
How do we treat it?
Sinus headaches may be treated with decongestants, nasal sprays, and sometimes antibiotics to treat the underlying infection. The symptoms should go away shortly after treatment.
If you suspect you have really been suffering from a migraine though, speak to your doctor about an effective treatment plan.
If the migraine attacks occur frequently, your doctor may prescribe preventative treatment and may help you to identify possible triggers by encouraging you to keep a diary and noting anything that may result in a migraine. Your doctor may even refer you to a specialist or headache clinic.