Thursday, April 23, 2015

Can Allergies Cause My Headaches?

When headaches strike, most of us run through a list of typical causes and reach for some ibuprofen for quick relief.  But what if you have allergies?  Should you be reaching for allergy treatment to get headache relief instead?  

Millions of people suffer from allergies and don't even know it. Identifying headache triggers is an important tool in the prevention of headaches.  Patients commonly complain of symptoms of facial pain and pressure, eye pain, and in increase in headaches in the spring.  These are typical signs of a sinus headache.  Many have missed an obvious important environmental trigger for their pain - pollen and other environmental triggers.
How Can Allergies Cause Sinus Headaches?

Picture of the Human Sinuses

  • Sinus cavities are hollow spaces with openings to the nose allow the flow of air and mucous into the nose.
  • Cavities are located over the cheeks (maxillary sinuses), forehead (frontal sinuses), and over/between eyebrows (sphenoid and ethmoid sinuses) (See above diagram).
  • Breathing in breathing in pollen, pet dander, dust, and other allergic triggers can trigger localized inflammation in the sinus cavities
  • Allergic inflammation can trigger pain and pressure in the corresponding area face.
  • Allergic inflammation triggers localized swelling in the sinuses that disrupts normal blood flow and drainage of blood and mucous. 
  • This buildup of pressure causes pain and allergic inflammation known as allergic sinusitis.  
What are Signs of Sinus Headaches Caused by Allergies?
  • Chronic pain and tenderness over the cheeks, forehead, and area between or behind the eyes.
  • Stuffy nose, sneezing, ear pain or pressure, ear fullness, or facial swelling
  • Loss of smell
  • Post nasal drip
  • Triggers of seasonal variation, for example, a headache you get every spring, fall, or with exposure to cleaning.
  • Have other diseases triggered by allergies like asthma, eczema, or allergies in your nose or eyes?  Allergic diseases tend to run together.  If you're an "allergic" person, then allergies in your sinuses might be triggering your allergies.
  • Suspect you're an allergic person, but aren't sure?  Take this easy quiz How Do I Know If I Have Allergies?
How Can You Treat Sinus Headaches?
  • If you suffer from headaches, see your primary doctor for a complete evaluation.
  • Suspect you have headaches triggered by uncontrolled allergies?  See an allergist to get tested to identify potential allergic triggers.
  • An allergist will be able to help formulate a specific plan that will include:
    • avoidance measures, 
    • direct medications and 
    • possibly offer allergy shots (a way to desensitize you to your allergic triggers)
  • Want more information on headaches?  Learn more at Allergies and Headaches or The National Headache Foundation.
Have more specific questions for me?  Schedule an appointment here.