Are My Sinus Symptoms a Migraine?

You have a headache behind your forehead and you feel pressure and pain between your temples.

You believe you are prone to sinus infections, so you immediately think the pressure and pain you are feeling are sinus symptoms run to the doctor for antibiotics and decongestants.

However, your sinus symptoms may actually be caused by a migraine headache, and you may not even know it. What's worse is that sinus medications can actually make your migraines worse. Read on to learn more about sinus symptoms and their relationship with migraine headaches.

A migraine and a sinus headache are two completely different things with similar symptoms, many of which appear to be sinus symptoms but are not. Pain behind the forehead and cheeks, facial and temple tenderness and eye pain and pressure are all symptoms of migraine headaches and sinus headaches. It's easy to see how you could misinterpret them and end up treating your migraine with sinus medication.

Robert G. Kaniecki, MD, director of the Headache Center at the University of Pittsburgh, says that sinus medications can actually exacerbate the symptoms of a migraine headache. Even worse, you may be missing out on simple, effective treatments for your migraines by trying to treat only the sinus symptoms.

Dr. Kaniecki explains that the United States is the only country in the world that reports a sinus headaches as a significant health problem. He explains that most other countries only see patients reporting sinus symptoms and sinus headaches when they have acute sinus infections. He believes that these recurring sinus headaches are likely migraines and are often being self-diagnosed and mistreated with over-the-counter medications. He suggests that this is largely due to manufacturers of sinus medications advertising much more than migraine medication manufacturers and to people not being aware of the symptoms of migraines.

David C. Haas, MD, is a neurologist at the State University of New York Upstate Medical University, grees with Dr. Kaniecki's statements and explains that not only are sinus headaches mis- and over- diagnosed by the public, they are also mis- and over-diagnosed by doctors.

The sinus symptoms shared by migraine sufferers and those with acute sinus infections are head pain and pressure (over, under and behind the eyes and forehead). However, if you have a sinus infection, you likely have other sinus symptoms including congestion, post-nasal drip, fever and sore throat not present with a migraine.

Many individuals do not recognize migraine symptoms or do not associate them with what they assume is a sinus headache, so they do not report them to their physician. These symptoms can include sensitivity to light and sound, seeing spots or light flashes, tunnel vision or blurred direct vision, and nausea.

Since these symptoms can pass more quickly than the actual headache part of a migraine, which can last days, by the time a person visits a doctor, the headache is the only thing they think to report.

Migraines are not as rare as you might think. Approximately 18 percent of women and 6 percent of men in the United States are affected by migraines, but barely half of migraine headaches are diagnosed accurately.

If you have frequent, severe sinus symptoms and headaches that are not alleviated by sinus or over-the-counter headache treatments, you should talk to your doctor about the possibility that you suffer from migraine headaches.

By Melissa Fox

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