All sorts of things can go on in the sinus cavities that can cause headaches, and you guess it:

Cancer is one of them. But do not confuse a severe headache with the “pressure” headache that infected sinuses so often cause.

“Sinus symptoms more frequently cause pressure over the affected sinuses than severe headaches,” explains Dr. Stacey Silvers, MD, of Madison ENT & Facial Plastic Surgery in NYC, who is board certified in otolaryngology; one of her specialties is sinus surgery.

“Headaches/pressure affected by seasons and barometric pressure changes are more likely sinus symptoms.

“Headaches that wake you from sleep and occur consistently around hormone changes are usually migraine.

“The sinuses have drainage pathways. If those drainage pathways are blocked with congestion then the sinus itself will swell, causing pain and pressure over the affected sinus.” This pain and pressure will often feel like a headache.

So far we have, as sinus causes of headaches:

• Allergies (seasons)

• Changes in barometric pressure (weather)

• Congestion from a cold/infection (this is literally gunk or goop that collects in a sinus cavity)

Additional Sinus Issues that Can Cause a Headache (no particular order)

• Bacterial infection (which can also irritate nerves that can then radiate pain into the head or forehead; the gunk of congestion can also do this)

• Benign polyp

• Benign tumor

• Malignant tumor (rare; 2,000 cases a year are diagnosed in the U.S.)

• Abscess

• Benign dermoid cyst

“Cheek pain and pressure is caused by the maxillary sinus. If dental pain is involved this is likely a sinus infection,” says Dr. Silvers.

“Forehead pain/pressure is the frontal sinus, pressure and pain between the eyes is the ethmoid sinus.

“Top of the head pain can be more confusing but can be sphenoid sinus related (the sinus in the back of the nose).

“Pain in the back of the head and over the temples is not likely sinus [but could be] and may be migraine or musculoskeletal. If these symptoms persist, see a headache specialist.”

An NYC expert in ear, nose and throat care, Dr. Silvers has been named among America’s Top Physicians and Surgeons in facial plastic surgery and otolaryngology numerous times since 2003.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer. 
Top image: Shutterstock/tommaso79