What is the difference between a sinus headache and a migraine headache?

A Answers (2)

  • AMark Green, MD, Neurology, answered on behalf of The Mount Sinai Health System
    Sinus headache usually refers to pain that is felt over the forehead and cheeks that is associated with nasal congestion or runny nose. However, if the pain is the primary complaint, most often this type of headache is actually a migraine. Only in the setting of an active infection where the primary symptoms are fever, cough and bloody thick nasal discharge can headache be attributed to sinus infection. Chronic sinusitis is never a cause of headaches. There is a widespread misconception that pain over the forehead and cheeks is related to the sinuses. Migraine not only can give pain over the forehead and face but can cause nasal stuffiness, eye tearing and runny nose. People who have frequent headaches involving the front of their head/face should not only be evaluated by an ENT but should also see a neurologist about the possibility of migraine.


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  • AKathleen Mullin, MD, Neurology, answered on behalf of The Mount Sinai Health System

    There is a common misconception that chronic sinus issues cause headache. The truth is, unless you have a fever, pressure in the sinuses, and discolored nasal discharge, your sinuses are probably not causing your headache. If you have the aforementioned symptoms you are likely suffering from acute sinusitis and require antibiotic treatment.

    However, if you have a recurrent runny nose, watery eyes, and facial pain/pressure along with headache without fever or discolored discharge, you likely suffer from migraines. The pain pathway that leads to migraine also activates something called the Parasympathetic nervous system. This activation leads to a runny nose and eyes, which is what leads many people to believe they have a sinus infection. Always check with your doctor if you are not sure. But, if you have this type of headache repeatedly, you may suffer from migraines.

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