What is a migraine? Why migraine happens. Who gets migraines? Treating migraines.

Sinus Infection, Allergies, or Migraine?

Red puffy eyes, runny nose, nasal congestion, droopy eyelids, and a horrific headache - it must be your sinuses. Not necessarily. If these symptoms have plagued you and taking over-the-counter medications fails to bring any significant relief, you may not have a sinus headache at all. You may very well have a migraine.

It May Not Be A Sinus Headache After All

In a 2006 study presented at the 46th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Headache Society (AHS), it was suggested that nine out of ten people with sinus headache symptoms are probably suffering with migraine headaches and not sinus headaches.

Lead investigator Eric Eross, D.O., associate consultant in neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona said, "It's not surprising people are convinced they have sinus headaches, because they often have nasal congestion, pressure or pain in the forehead or just below the eyes, and red or puffy eyes." He continued, "It's guilt by association. Much of the pain or pressure is in the face, on both sides, so it doesn't occur to them that this might be a Migraine."

Often, people who suffer with sinus headaches also have migraines but don't know it. There are two types of migraines in these situations, one presents with sinus symptoms and one without. So-called "real" sinus headaches are usually the result of a sinus infection, something nearly 37 million Americans encounter at least once a year. Typically, symptoms of a sinus infection include fever, swollen lymph nodes, and a nasal discharge that is persistent and green/yellow in color. Usually, sinusitis is treated with specific medications and the headaches go away as the infection clears up.

Allergy Sufferers Are More Susceptible To Migraines

Another cause of "sinus headache" may be allergic rhinitis, which presents with similar symptoms to sinusitis. An allergic reaction precedes the release of histamine. This can cause a dilation of blood vessels in the brain and ultimately cause, or worsen, a migraine headache. In one study, people with allergic rhinitis were found to meet the criteria for migraine headaches in greater numbers than those who did not have allergic rhinitis. Actually, people with allergies are about 14 times more likely to report the occurrence of a migraine headache than people who do not suffer with allergies.

Children With Hereditary Conditions Are Affected

Nearly 40 percent of children who suffer from migraines also prove to have allergies when tested for them. Allergy induced asthma has also been associated with migraine headaches and children with atopic diseases (hereditary tendency toward immediate allergic reactions because of the presence of an antibody in the system) show increased incidents of migraine headaches.

Food allergies or food intolerances are yet another trigger for migraine headaches. While many different foods can trigger a migraine in some people, those with particular food allergies may be more susceptible.

Treating Allergies May Help Control Headaches

Treating migraine headaches with anti-histamines has not proven to be very effective. However, aggressive treatment of allergic rhinitis, including the use of nasal sprays and allergy shots, may be helpful in both treating and preventing headaches in people with allergic triggers to their migraines.