Sinuses Giving You a Headache? It's Probably Migraine.

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Although the International Headache Society (IHS) doesn't list sinus headache (without an infection) as a classification of headache, the researchers suggest there actually may be such a thing, if uncommon, and called it NIRSH - noninfectious rhino-sinus headache. Researchers believe the 9 people whose headaches didn't meet any IHS classifications actually suffer from NIRSH.

Of the 100 participants:

  • 98 percent said they had pain over their sinuses,
  • 97 percent said they had pain in the face,
  • 83 percent said the weather influenced their headaches,
  • 78 percent said their physicians had diagnosed them as having sinus headaches,
  • 76 percent said sinus medication helped,
  • 73 percent said they had a runny nose with the headaches,
  • 71 percent said their headaches varied with the seasons and
  • 67 percent said allergies affected their headaches.

SAMS researchers also analyzed the 63 people diagnosed with Migraine. Among their findings:

  • 56 percent had nasal congestion, 37 percent had eyelid puffiness, 25 percent had a runny nose, 22 percent had red eyes, 19 percent had tearing, and 3 percent suffered from droopy eyelids.
  • 57 percent had Migraine pain first, which eventually triggered the sinus-like symptoms, while 33 percent had sinus-like symptoms first, possibly triggering the Migraine. Headaches were triggered by weather changes for 83 percent, 73 percent said they noticed seasonal variations in their headaches, 62 percent said their headaches were triggered by a specific allergen and 38 percent noticed a change in altitude had an effect on their headaches. "This study suggests we should appreciate the role the change of seasons may play in Migraine," said Dr. Eross. "It also suggests allergies may trigger Migraines."
  • The study participants had to wait an average of 25 years before receiving the correct diagnosis of Migraine - in most cases by SAMS investigators. Researchers calculated that the average direct cost in seeking a correct diagnosis was $2,831.06 per person, including consultations with various doctors and undergoing diagnostic tests such as sinus imaging studies.
  • Slightly more than half (51 percent) were severely affected as a result of their headaches, including missed days from school, or work, work around the house or social events - and 21 percent were moderately affected, as determined by a Migraine disability score.
  • The majority (95 percent) were taking some sort of medication: 33 percent were taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen and naproxen; 25 percent were taking acetaminophen; 21 percent were taking other non-prescription pain relievers, 21 percent were taking non-prescription sinus medications (antihistamines) and 9.5 percent were taking triptans, which are the most effective Migraine-specific prescription medications. When asked how beneficial the medications were, the triptans came out on top, far ahead of the next most helpful medicine, antihistamines.

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