You have probably been told by someone, be it a doctor or good ol’ Mom, that a headache accompanied by facial pain is a sinus headache. Research has shown that more often than not, if you get frequent sinus headaches, you are actually suffering from migraine headaches.
A study conducted by the Mayo Clinic looked at 100 people who self-diagnosed themselves as having sinus headaches. It found that:
- 63 had suffered migraine headaches
- 23 of the remaining people had probable migraine headaches
- 9 had unclassifiable headaches
- 3 had sinus infections as the cause of the headache
- 1 had cluster headaches
- 1 had a rare type of headache, called a hemicranias continua
What makes this a bit more interesting is that 98 percent of the people in the study had pain over the sinuses, which is traditionally associated with sinus woes. In addition, 56 percent had nasal congestion and 25 percent had a runny nose.
Sadly, most of the study participants had to wait over 25 years to learn they actually suffered from migraine headaches, which could have been properly treated had they been diagnosed- meaning they suffered needlessly. If you have chronic headaches, regardless of the symptoms, visit your ear, nose and throat specialist to determine if your sinuses are really the problem.
At Atlanta ENT, we have found that many patients have a combination of migraine headaches and sinus headaches due to a structural narrowing of the nasal and sinus passageways. It is also common for patients with migraine headaches to have their headaches made worse by sinusitis.
By Ramie A Tritt, MD, President, Atlanta ENT