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Learn about your sinus pain, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your sinus pain from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

Sinus Pain Checker

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Your Sinus Pain May Also be Known as:
Head cold
Nasal pain
Nose discomfort
Nose pain
Pain behind the cheekbones
Pain behind the nose
Sinus infection

Sinus Pain Symptoms

Sinus pain is an uncomfortable, aching sensation localized around your nose, ears and sometimes eyes.

The sinuses are pockets of air behind your nose, cheekbones, eyes and forehead that protect the body from outside germs and bacteria by producing mucus. The mucus traps these foreign substances and prevents them from entering the body. However, when too much mucus is formed, the openings of the sinuses become blocked and pain often results.

Sinus pain can be either acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term) if it lasts for more than 12 weeks despite adequate treatment.

Symptoms associated with acute and chronic sinus pain can be similar, including:

Severity of these symptoms often worsens in chronic sinus pain and patients can also experience reduced sense of smell or taste and pain in other parts of the body such as the jaw.

Acute and chronic sinus pain have different treatments, so it is important to seek medical attention promptly in order to get appropriate care for your sinus pain symptoms.

Sinus Pain Causes Overview

Any condition that results in inflammation, swelling or obstruction of the sinuses can result in sinus pain symptoms.

Inflammation

  • Infection (sinusitis): When the respiratory tract (mouth, nose, throat, and lungs) become infected the resulting inflammation thickens the sinuses and blocks drainage of mucus. This results in congestion, thick discharge and significant swelling that results in sinus pain. Infections of the sinuses and respiratory tract can be either bacterial, viral or fungal in origin.
  • Allergy (rhinitis): Pollen, hay and other allergens that circulate in the air can irritate the sinus tract and cause swelling and pain, especially during springtime. People with sinus pain from allergic rhinitis often also experience sinus pain along with redness or itchiness of the eyes. People with severe allergies often experience chronic sinus pain symptoms that are difficult to treat.

Obstruction

  • Structural: Structural abnormalities such as a deviated septum or narrow nasal passage can result in swelling and obstruction of the nasal passages that affects the sinuses as well. This can result in chronic sinus pain.
  • Tissue: The nose can become lined with soft, painless noncancerous tissue growths called nasal polyps. The mechanism of growth is currently unknown, but nasal polyps can cause swelling of the nasal cavity, leading to blockage, congestion that can spread to the sinuses.

Environmental causes:

  • Pollutants: Cigarette smoke and other contaminants can trigger inflammation or allergic reactions in patients that can result in sinus pain symptoms.
  • Medical conditions: Conditions such as cystic fibrosis and immune system disorders such as HIV can cause chronic nasal blockage and swelling that leads to debilitating sinus pain and tenderness.

Top 7 Sinus Pain Causes

  1. 1.Sinus Headache

    Sinus headaches are very common. When compared to a normal headache, this pain is generally around the eyes, sinuses, and upper cheeks.

    Your sinus headache is of normal variation and can be treated at home with an over-the-counter pain reliever.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    headache, mucous dripping in the back of the throat, headache that worsens when head moves, facial fullness or pressure, sinus pain
    Symptoms that always occur with sinus headache:
    headache
    Symptoms that never occur with sinus headache:
    fever, being severely ill, sore throat, muscle aches, cough, drooping eyelid, wateriness in both eyes, headache resulting from a head injury, severe headache, unexplained limb pain
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  2. 2.Viral Throat Infection

    Viral pharyngitis is an inflammation of the pharynx, the part of the throat between the nasal cavity and mouth, which causes throat pain.

    Antibiotics are not useful for viral infections. You can gargle with salt water and use over the counter pain medication like Tylenol to treat your painful or sore throat.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    sore throat, cough, congestion, fever, hoarse voice
    Symptoms that always occur with viral throat infection:
    sore throat
    Symptoms that never occur with viral throat infection:
    being severely ill
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  3. 3.Chronic Sinusitis

    Chronic sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinuses (hollow cavities behind the nose & cheeks) that lasts more than 12 weeks and can continue for months or years.

    You should visit your primary care physician, who may send you to a specialist to examine your nasal passages. A doctor may prescribe a topical or oral corticosteroid.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, trouble sleeping, headache, congestion, runny nose
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

    Sinus Pain Checker

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  4. 4.Acute Bacterial Sinusitis

    Acute bacterial sinusitis occurs when the sinuses become infected and, in turn, inflamed, which causes pain and other symptoms. The sinuses are air-filled cavities in the face that are generally clean and empty but when sick collect excess mucus and can become infected.

    You should visit a physician or urgent care facility in the next day or two. It’s likely your sinus infection is caused by a bacterial infection, which requires treatment with antibiotics. In the mean time, ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be taken to help with pain & fever.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, headache, cough, muscle aches, sore throat
    Symptoms that always occur with acute bacterial sinusitis:
    sinusitis symptoms
    Symptoms that never occur with acute bacterial sinusitis:
    clear runny nose, being severely ill
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  5. 5.Acute Viral Sinusitis

    Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinus spaces behind the nose and cheeks. These spaces produce mucus, which drains into the nose. If the nose is swollen or if the mucus does not drain, this can block the sinuses and cause pain or infection.

    You can treat your symptoms at home using ibuprofen (for pain) and Tylenol (for a fever). Antibiotics for this diagnosis are not helpful because this is likely a viral infection.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    headache, cough, sore throat, sinusitis symptoms, muscle aches
    Symptoms that always occur with acute viral sinusitis:
    sinusitis symptoms
    Symptoms that never occur with acute viral sinusitis:
    being severely ill
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  6. 6.Osteoma of Skull and Facial Bones

    An osteoma is a benign (non-cancerous) outgrowth of bone, usually in the skull and facial bones. They are slow growing and usually cause no symptoms. Osteomas are noticed once they begin causing problems with breathing, vision, or hearing.

    You should visit your primary care physician. Surgical excision is the preferred route of treatment.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    vision changes, new headache, trouble swallowing, sinus pain, jaw lump
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Wegener's Granulomatosis

    An inflammation of the blood vessels by the body's immune system is a rare, but possibly dangerous problem. The inflammation can happen anywhere, but often in the sinuses, lungs, and kidneys.

    You should visit your primary care physician soon to provide an early diagnosis. Treatment of inflammatory diseases commonly involve prescription medications such as a steroid to decrease inflammation, and a cell-damaging medicine to kill abnormal cells.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, joint pain, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, fever
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Sinus Pain Treatments and Relief

Acute sinus pain can be prevented by making simple lifestyle changes and taking preventative measures such as:

  • Prevent upper respiratory infections: Wash hands frequently with soap and water. Minimize contact with people you know to be sick.
  • Avoid cigarette smoke: Try to limit exposure to smoke and other pollutants.

If you have been experiencing sinus pain symptoms for a few days, try the following at home-remedies to help relieve your symptoms:

  • Drink fluids: Drinking water or juice can decrease the thickness of the mucous trapped in the nasal passageway and sinuses, promoting drainage. Avoid caffeine or alcohol as these fluids can be dehydrating and worsen swelling in the nose.
  • Moisturize the sinuses: Breathing in warm, moist air can also facilitate mucus drainage and ease pain.
  • Rinse out the nasal passages: You can purchase special nasal rinses or make your own that can help rid your nasal passages of trapped mucus.
  • Keep the head elevated during sleep: This allows the sinuses to properly drain and reduces congestion.
  • Apply a warm compress: Putting a warm towel or heating pad on the nose or cheek area can help directly reduce the swelling and pain you are experiencing.

If your sinus pain symptoms are due to a viral infection, your physician will suggest supportive measures as outlined above, but if your symptoms are the result of other causes, your doctor may suggest:

  • Antibiotics: If a bacterial infection is the cause of your sinus pain your physician will prescribe the proper antibiotics to properly eliminate the underlying cause and reduce sinus inflammation.
  • Surgery: If you have structural problems with your nasal passages, your physician may suggest surgery to correct the underlying issue.
  • Immune medications: Therapies that reduce the body's reaction to specific allergens can reduce inflammation and decrease the number of sinus flare-ups.

FAQs About Sinus Pain

Here are some frequently asked questions about sinus pain.

Can a sinus infection cause a toothache?

Yes, a sinus infection can cause pain in the mouth and an ache in the teeth. A toothache can usually be pinpointed to a particular part of the mouth or a single tooth. Sinus infections may cause a general or regional pain in the mouth from compression of a nerve, but does not cause pain that can be pinpointed to a particular region.

What happens if you let a sinus infection go untreated?

A sinus infection if untreated will often self-resolve. Most sinus infections are viral, and while they may take up to ten days to resolve, they do in most cases. Symptoms can be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) medications or consumption of hot liquids. Notable exceptions to the principle of self-resolution include bacterial infections, usually identified by particularly severe symptoms and pus emanating from the nose. Fungal infections can also be dangerous and should be attended to as a medical emergency.

Can you feel tired with a sinus infection?

Yes. A sinus infection is often concurrent or precipitated by a viral infection. Viral infections can cause fever, chills, fatigue, and muscle or body aches. Nasal congestion can also cause a feeling of fatigue and poor concentration as the pain and pressure can be distracting.

How long does it take for a viral sinus infection to go away?

Viral sinus infections usually last seven to ten days in healthy individuals. They can, however, dovetail with a bacterial infection that extends and worsens the infection. Over-the-counter medications do not usually shorten the length of the infection, but they can increase the quality of sleep which can speed up recovery.

Why do my ears hurt when I have a sinus infection?

A sinus infection involves blockage of the tubes through which mucus drains from the skull, causing a buildup in the empty spaces — sinuses — of the head. Additionally, the swelling of mucous membranes in the oropharynx — the mouth and throat — can block the eustachian tubes from draining, and cause a buildup of pressure in the ears, causing ear pain.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Sinus Pain

  • Q.Is your facial pain constant or come-and-go?
  • Q.How long has your facial pain been going on?
  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Q.Do you have a sore throat?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, check our sinus pain symptom checker.

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Sinus Pain Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced sinus pain have also experienced:

    • 6% Headache
    • 6% Cough
    • 5% Congestion
  • People who have experienced sinus pain had symptoms persist for:

    • 40% Less Than a Week
    • 33% Less Than a Day
    • 13% Over a Month
  • People who have experienced sinus pain were most often matched with:

    • 9% Viral Throat Infection
    • 5% Sinus Headache
    • 4% Chronic Sinusitis
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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    Sinus Pain Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having sinus pain.

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