Sinus headaches are a symptom of sinus infections (sinusitis). A sinus headache may feel like a dull pain behind your eyes, in your cheekbones, forehead or bridge of your nose. Typically, sinus headaches go away once a sinus infection runs its course. But people should contact a healthcare provider if they have one that lasts more than a week.
A sinus headache is a symptom of sinus infections (sinusitis). Sinus headaches make your face hurt. You may feel a constant, dull ache behind the eyes or in your cheekbones, forehead and the bridge of your nose. The pain gets worse when you move your head suddenly or you bend over. Typically, sinus headaches go away once a sinus infection runs its course.
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If you have a sinus headache, a viral or bacterial infection in your sinuses may be to blame. Sinuses are a series of connected hollow spaces behind your cheekbones, forehead and nose. Air that comes in through your nose travels through your sinuses on its way to your lungs.
Your sinuses are lined with tissue. They also make mucus that keeps your nose moist and traps intruders like bacteria, viruses, fungi and dust-carrying allergens.
Normally, free-flowing mucus carries off intruders before they can make trouble in your sinuses. But sometimes your sinuses’ reaction to intruders starts a chain reaction that leads to sinus headaches.
First, your sinuses start making more mucus. Mucus building up in your sinuses creates a place where intruders like bacteria and viruses can settle and grow. Growing intruders make sinus tissue swell, trapping mucus so it can’t flow from your sinuses. The result is swollen, irritated, fluid-filled sinuses that make your face feel achy and tender.
Sinus headaches stem from sinus infections. Understanding sinus infection risk factors may reduce your risk of sinus headaches. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, those risk factors include:
Your healthcare provider will perform a physical exam and ask about your symptoms. If your symptoms are severe or ongoing, you may also need imaging tests like X-rays or computed tomography (CT) scans.
Imaging tests show if your sinuses are blocked. If they aren’t, it may mean you have a different issue like a migraine or a tension headache. Migraine headaches and sinus headaches have common symptoms. Studies suggest 80% of people who thought they had sinus headaches had migraines.
Sinus headaches happen because you have a sinus infection. Healthcare providers may treat bacterial infections with antibiotics. Viral infections typically go away without treatment.
Your healthcare provider may also recommend other medications to ease discomfort, like:
Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix for sinus headaches. You need treatment for the underlying cause to get rid of a sinus headache. But there are things you can do to ease sinus pressure and pain:
Preventing sinus infections is the best way to prevent sinus headaches. For example, many people have seasonal allergies that make spring a season of stuffy noses (nasal congestion) that may turn into a viral sinus infection. If that’s your situation, talk to an allergist. They’ll have recommendations and treatments to prevent or ease allergies that cause nasal congestion. Here are other suggestions for heading off sinus headaches:
That depends on what caused you to have sinusitis. For example, viruses cause most sinus infections. When the viral infection clears up, the sinus headache goes away. That may take a week or so. Sinus issues that don’t go away may mean you have a bacterial or fungal sinus infection that requires treatment like an antibiotic or antifungal.
Most sinus headaches go away when sinus infections clear. Talk to a healthcare provider if your sinus issues don’t go away within a week or so.
You may want to ask the following questions:
There are several kinds of headaches that may make your head hurt in different ways. For example, people often confuse migraine headaches and sinus headaches because they both cause pain that pinpoints certain parts of your aching head. The difference is where pain happens:
The difference is that a sinus headache is just one symptom of sinusitis. If you have sinusitis, you may also have the following symptoms:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Your head is throbbing. Your face hurts. And you don’t even want to think about moving your head or bending over. If this sounds familiar, you may have a sinus headache caused by a sinus infection. Most sinus infections and sinus headaches clear up within a week or 10 days. When they don’t, it’s time to contact a healthcare provider. You may have a bacterial or fungal sinus infection or a migraine. Either way, you’ll need special medication that treats infections or migraines. A healthcare provider will do tests to diagnose the issue. They’ll also recommend things you can do at home to ease your symptoms.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/12/2023.
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