ZocdocAnswersHow can I tell if I am experiencing a migraine or a sinus headache?

Question

How can I tell if I am experiencing a migraine or a sinus headache?

I am a 27 year old female, who has experienced migraines for over a decade. I get frequent headaches, that feel like migraines, but might be sinus headaches. I have sensitivity to light, pressure on my temples and forehead, and pressure behind my eyes. I can't tell the difference between sinus headaches and migraines anymore. I take Imitrex for migraines, and usually have Sudafed on hand for sinus flare ups.

Answer

It can be difficult to tell the difference between the symptoms of a migraine headache and those of a sinus headache. Typically migraines cause pain that affects one side of the head and has a throbbing or pounding quality, but they can cause pain behind the eyes as well. It is very common for migraine sufferers to have sensitivity to light (as well as sound) and want to relax in a dark quiet room when their headaches come on. Occasionally, migraines are preceded by some kind of aura, a sensation or change that lets a person know the migraine is coming soon, such as visual changes. Sinus headaches, conversely, are not associated with visual changes or any other form of aura, and typically do not cause overt sensitivity to light or sound. These headaches are usually associated (and typically only happen) with sinus congestion and pain, such that the sinuses may be tender to palpation. You should talk about your headaches in more detail with your primary care doctor. If it is thought that your headaches are more like migraines, then you may benefit from some form of a prophylactic medication taken daily to prevent them from coming in the first place (such as a beta-blocker or tricyclic anti-depressant).

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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