About Author — Medically reviewed by Dr. Heidi Lightfoot, MD who is an anesthesiologist in Hampshire, United Kingdom. Alongside her clinical work, she has an interest in medical writing and clinical research.

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Sinus Headache Without Congestion

Congestion is one of the main symptoms and causes of sinus headaches. This is because the swelling and mucus clog the sinuses and leads to pressure buildup by preventing proper airflow or drainage of mucus.

It is very rare to experience a sinus headache without congestion. If you have a headache that seems like a sinus headache, but have no congestion, it is less likely to be a sinus headache.


Sinus headaches are usually accompanied by congestion.


This is because sinus infections often stem from upper respiratory infections. An infection like this causes swelling in the sinuses, which are very small, and makes your body produce more mucus, which helps fight off these infections. However, the swelling and increased mucus production lead to congestion and prevent normal drainage of your sinuses, which leads to pain.

Read on to learn more about sinus headaches and what other type of headache you may be experiencing instead.

What is a Sinus Headache?

Sinus headaches occur because of a build up in pressure due to blocked sinuses. This pressure can be felt as a throbbing sensation around the eyes, nose, and forehead. Some other signs you are experiencing a sinus headache are:

  • You have just recovered from an upper respiratory infection or currently have one.
  • You suffer from allergies.
  • Your sinus pain is accompanied by bad breath, loss of smell, nasal congestion, and/or thick, discolored mucus.
  • Your headaches typically come in the morning and get worse when you bend over.
  • Your headache is accompanied by fever, sore throat, and/or postnasal drip.
  • You’re experiencing tenderness around the forehead, eyes, and nose.

If you have the above symptoms you may be suffering from a sinus headache and may have a sinus infection also known as sinusitis.


Talk to a PlushCare doctor to get an official diagnosis and treatment plan.


congested sinuses vs clear sinuses

Migraine vs Sinus Headache

If you don’t have any congestion in your nose or sinuses, it is not likely you have a sinus headache. It is possible that you are suffering from a migraine or another type of headache.

Both migraines and sinus headaches can be very painful and really get in the way of your daily routine.

Unlike sinus headaches, which are usually caused by bacteria, viruses or allergens causing inflammation of the sinuses, migraines occur without any previous infections or congestion, completely out of nowhere.


Both types of headaches often impact the front of the head and face, which is why they are easily confused. They also both have a pounding or throbbing sensation.


It is important to know the differences between the two because the treatment plans are different. Making sure that you have a proper diagnosis will mean you don’t waste time with treatment for the wrong condition.

Migraine Symptoms

Migraines are accompanied by different symptoms than sinus headaches. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms in addition to your headache, it is more likely that you have a migraine:

  • Nausea
  • Pain behind one or both eyes
  • Pain in the temples
  • Seeing spots or flashing lights
  • Sensitivity to light and/or sound
  • Temporary loss of vision
  • Vomiting

If you think you are experiencing a migraine book an appointment with a PlushCare physician today.


There are other, more serious conditions, that a physician will need to rule out if you have these symptoms.

If it is a migraine, the physician will be able to provide a prescription – the sooner you treat a migraine, the sooner it will go away. In some cases early intervention can prevent migraines from worsening.


The most important thing to remember is that sinus headaches rarely occur without congestion and symptoms can resemble a migraine as they both tend to be felt in the front of the head and face.


If you have a headache and are worried that it could be a sinus headache or migraine, make an appointment with one of our PlushCare physicians today.


Read more about sinus headaches and migraines


Sources

Mayo Clinic. Sinus Headaches. Accessed January 29, 2020 at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sinus-headaches/symptoms-causes/syc-20377580

MedlinePlus. Migraine. Accessed January 29, 2020 at https://medlineplus.gov/migraine.html

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