As doctors, we like to put things into neat categories, labeling each individual disease as separate from one another. But the reality is that many diseases overlap, and certain patients fall somewhere on this spectrum in their diagnosis.

This is particularly true when discussing headaches, especially in distinguishing sinus headaches versus migraines. Classically, sinus headaches are related to “pressure” in the sinus cavities and nose, resulting in a deep pain over the entire face. Migraines, on the other hand, traditionally are one-sided (but can be on both sides), and are associated with throbbing pain which is usually worsened by exposure to light and sound. Despite these differences, there is a lot of overlap.

One of the associated triggers for migraines is in the nose, thought to be associated with migraines starting from behind the eyes. And surgery for this trigger involves similar techniques to sinus surgery. In fact, a growing number of doctors believe that a majority patients diagnosed with “sinus headaches” suffer from migraines!

How To Diagnose A Migraine Vs. Sinus Headache

So, where does this leave the patient trying to get a handle on their headaches? First, doctors have many tools to help distinguish a migraine headache from a sinus headache, and sometimes a clear diagnosis is obvious, leading to appropriate treatment.

But for a patient who’s been treated for sinus headaches and has little relief, it may be helpful to get worked up for migraines. Even though the symptoms can overlap between the two, the treatments are very different. It is also important to consider that certain patients may be suffering from both migraines and sinus headaches! Because there is a migraine nerve trigger in the nose, it is possible that a migraine can be triggered by sinus pressure around this area.

We know it can be very confusing. But to sort all this out, it is important to go to a physician who understands the subtle differences between these diseases and can provide the appropriate testing and treatment. In many cases, neurologists, otolaryngologists (ENTs) and migraine surgeons can work together to get a handle on the disease.

Find Out If You Are Suffering From Migraines

If you suffer from debilitating headaches and are still trying to figure out what causes them (migraines vs. sinus headaches), The Migraine Institute can help you. Please call us today to schedule your consultation with migraine surgery expert Dr Jonathan Cabin – 310.461.0303.

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