The sinuses are air filled cavities that drain into your nose through very narrow passageways. When these passageways become blocked, the sinuses are unable to drain, resulting in sinus pain, pressure and infection. Initially, the blocked sinus openings cause a negative pressure, or vacuum, to develop inside the sinuses. This hurts and is the reason for “sinus” headaches.
- This negative pressure also tends to trigger migraine headaches in people prone to migraines.
- Improving sinus pressure in these people will often decrease the number of migraines as well.
- A CT scan done in people with sinus headaches will often appear “normal” (after all, you can’t see pressure on a CT scan). These people are often told that their sinuses are fine, when in fact, the sinuses are what is causing the headaches. A careful examination of the scan will show that while there is no infection present, it is not “normal” (what you see are very narrow openings to the sinuses and very a small amount of swelling in the sinuses) and is likely the reason for your headaches.
- Often, medicines that take down swelling in the nose will improve the headaches.
- In the right patient, a very simple surgery (often done in the office using local anesthesia) to make the small sinus openings bigger can make the headaches go away.
- Allergic swelling commonly causes the sinus openings to swell closed. Treating allergies aggressively can often not only improve the more typical allergy symptoms of sneezing, itching, drainage and congestion, but can also help relieve sinus headaches.
- Many of our most satisfied patients had been to several doctors over many years for ongoing headaches, had tried a variety of headache medicines without improvement and had been told that there wasn’t anything that could be done for them.