Sinus Headache or Migraine When Storms Hit?

Health Professional

Full Question:

This spring has been terrible for me. Every time there's been a thunderstorm, I've had a terrible sinus headache. My doctor told me to use Sudafed. Then I read an article that said sinus headaches are usually migraines. Can you please tell me if this is true? There's a long history of migraines in my family. Thanks, Jeanine.

Full Answer:

Dear Jeanine:

Sinus headache is quite rare unless there's infection present. Research has shown that more than 90 percent of what people think are sinus headaches are migraines. You can find more information on this in Sinuses Giving You a Headache? It's Probably a Migraine.

Given some of the symptoms that can occur during a migraine and some of the places pain can occur, it's not surprising that there can be confusion. Migraines can cause a runny nose, congestion, and lacrimation (eyes tearing). The trigeminal nerve can become inflamed during a migraine. The branches of the trigeminal nerve run above the eyebrows, under the eyes, and along the jaw, so a migraine can also cause facial pain that could be mistaken for a sinus headache.

So, yes, it's true that most of what people think to be sinus headaches are migraines. We can't, however, tell you that's what's happening in your case. Only a doctor treating you in person can do that. The fact that migraine runs in your family, however, is a clue that you could be having migraines. If they're on one side of your family, you had a 50 percent chance of inheriting migraine, and that jumps to 75 percent if there's a history of migraine on both sides of your family.

Thanks for your question,
David Watson, MD, and Teri Robert


About Ask the Clinician:

Dr. David Watson is a UCNS certified migraine and headache specialists and director of the Headache Center at West Virginia University. He and Lead Health Guide Teri Robert, team up to answer your questions about headaches and Migraines. You can read more about _ Dr. Watson_ or more about _** Teri Robert** _.

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