The sinuses are air-filled cavities in the skull. There are four pairs of sinuses which function to humidify inhaled air, increase voice resonance and decease the weight of the skull. Sinuses can become inflamed or blocked from mucus, which can often cause a sinus headache.
The pain from a sinus headache may vary depending on which of the sinuses are affected. For example, the frontal sinuses, which are located above the eyes, may cause pain across the forehead. Pain may be accompanied by mucus discharge from the nose.
A sinus headache may occur for a variety of reasons. When an individual has a cold, mucus production is increased. The sinuses could become full of mucus, which does not drain efficiently. An accumulation of mucus can cause pain and pressure in the head. Allergies may also result in increased mucus and inflammation in the sinuses.
Growths in the nasal cavity or sinuses, which restricts the flow of mucus from the sinuses, can also lead to a headache. For instance, benign tumors in the sinuses or nasal polyps can cause an obstruction. In addition to growths, structural abnormalities may be present from birth, resulting in an obstruction.
Both bacterial and viral sinus infections can also cause a sinus headache. Sinus infections, know as sinusitis, often occur after a cold or other respiratory infection. The sinuses become inflamed and mucus cannot drain from the sinuses adequately. With the combination of inflammation and mucus, a sinus headache may occur.
Treatment for a sinus headache may be aimed at draining the sinuses. Decongestants may help promote sinus drainage. Over the counter expectorants may also help thin the mucus and help it drain from the sinuses, which may reduce headache pain. Antihistamines may help limit mucus production and may work for those who suffer sinus headaches due to allergies. If headaches are caused by a sinus infection, antibiotics may be needed.
In addition to medications to reduce sinus headache pain, there are additional ways to promote sinus drainage. Drinking plenty of water may help thin the mucus, which makes it easier to flow out of the sinuses. Inhaling steam from a hot shower may also help relieve headache pain.
It may not be possible to reduce all headaches caused by sinus pain, however there are a few things which can be done to reduce the frequency of sinus headaches. Identify and reduce allergy triggers. Use a humidifier to keep the air in your home moist. Reduce the chances of getting sick by frequently washing your hands, eating healthy food and getting enough sleep.