"Sinus headache"? It could be your turbinates

Sinus headache? It could be your turbinates

“Sinus headaches” are really nasal headaches. ENT specialist Gerard O’Halloran, MD explains.

People who feel pressure beneath their eyes – whether or not there’s pain in their eyes or forehead – often describe it as a “sinus headache.” 

But this pressure isn’t from the sinuses: It’s actually caused by crowding in the upper part of the nose. 

Each side of the nose has 3 or 4 structures called turbinates that function as radiators to heat air as it passes through the nose. Turbinates swell during colds, and in allergy season.

If your lowest turbinates are swollen, you may feel congested and have difficulty breathing through the nose. If one or both of your upper turbinates are swollen (or being pushed on by the middle wall of the nose), you may experience a nasal headache – pressure beneath your eyes and pain in, around, or above your eyes. Some people even get migraine headaches from crowding in the nose.

Anything that causes nasal congestion can make a nasal headache worse:

Colds Allergies Lying down (more blood flows into the nose due to gravity) Premenstrual cycle Smoke, strong odors, weather changes (for some) 

The medical treatment for nasal headaches is a topical nasal steroid spray like fluticasone (Flonase). Unfortunately, fewer than 1 in 4 people get good results from this.

If headaches are frequent and severe, surgery may help. We trim the turbinates to allow more air flow and reduce pressure. Millimeters can make a big difference inside the nose.

Start with an appointment: 952-469-0500

Meet Dr. O’Halloran

Learn more about ENT services