Headaches or migraines are a common medical problem with characteristics such as episodes of head pain and associated symptoms like nausea, sensitivity to light, sound, or moving the head.
ENT or Ear Nose and Throat Problems That Cause Headaches
ENT problems that can cause headaches include sinusitis, ear infections, or tonsillitis and can cause irritation to the nerves around the face and head contributing to headaches and or migraines.
At Colorado ENT and Allergy, our specialists are experts at dealing with problems in these areas. The first course of action is to obtain a diagnosis. A comprehensive headache treatment should always include management of ear, nose, and throat issues when apparent. Schedule Your Consultation Today!
Once the problems are identified, there are many treatment options from dietary changes to surgical procedures and medications.
How Common are Migraine Headaches?
In the U.S. there are more than 37 million Americans that suffer from “classic” migraine headaches. In a room with 100 people, 13 are likely to have a migraine.
Although any person can have a migraine at any age, migraines are most common between ages 30 and 50.
Migraines can be a lifelong problem. They may start in childhood and disappear and reappear in new forms throughout an individual’s life.
Surveys show that only 48% of people with migraine headaches have had a diagnosis and are being treated for their headaches.
How are People with Migraines Different?
Migraines are an inherited problem of ion channels in the brain. This may be caused by a “sensitive brain”. Most individuals exposed to loud noise, bright light, or excessive motion can adapt to these strong stimuli within minutes, but in the brain of someone who suffers from migraines, the continued stimulus can cause a migraine.
This lack of ability to adapt to strong sensory stimulation helps us understand why so many patients have a migraine headache or other migraine symptoms that can be caused by bright light, excessive noise, strong smells, excessive motion, and painful stimuli.
What Causes a Headache?
A headache trigger is anything environmental, dietary, or physiological that can provoke headache activity in the brain.
What are Environmental Triggers of a Headache?
Some examples of environmental triggers of a headache include odors, bright lights, noise, and other excessive sensory stimuli. Painful stimuli that trigger a headache usually occur in the head and neck. Forty percent of people with headaches are affected by weather changes.
Food Triggers That Can Cause a Headache
There are many potential food triggers for a headache. In general, these foods fall into two main categories, byproducts of food aging and foods with chemicals similar to neurotransmitters our brains use. Byproducts of food aging are found in fermented products like red wine, aged cheeses, and yeast in fresh bread and yogurt. Foods with chemicals similar to our own neurotransmitters which may aggravate migraine are coffee, chocolate, MSG, and the nitrates used as preservatives in many of our prepackaged foods.
Perhaps the most common trigger of headaches is stress. Patients commonly report increased symptoms when they are fatigued and suffer lack of sleep. Many other physiologic stresses can also trigger migraine, such as hunger, exercise, and pain.
Subtle stresses, like eye strain, can trigger a headache. It is not uncommon for someone with new-onset headaches to find their eyeglass prescription has changed. Updating the prescription can have dramatic positive results.
How to Keep a Headache Diary
Keeping a headache diary may be one of the most important tools for you and your physician to make treatment decisions. The simpler the record-keeping, the better. Use two pencils or pens of different color. With one color, mark the days you have headaches. With the other color, mark the days you have dizziness or symptoms other than headache. Make a note of any possible physiologic, dietary, or environmental triggers that have been present in the 24 hours prior to your symptoms.
Don’t forget to bring your diary with you to your appointments. It will allow you and your physician to see your symptoms at a glance.
Headaches and Inner Ear Disease
There is an increasing association between headaches and inner ear disease. Migraine related ear symptoms may vary from patient to patient and may take the form of episodic vertigo, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), recurrent benign positional vertigo, Meniere’s disease, ear pain, aural pressure, tinnitus, fluctuating hearing loss, and sudden hearing loss. Awareness of these possible associations is important because symptoms often respond to migraine treatments.
Headaches and Meniere’s Disease
There is increasing connection between migraines and Meniere’s disease. Meniere’s disease is a disorder of the inner ear characterized by episodic fullness, tinnitus (ringing), hearing loss, and vertigo whose cause is poorly understood. While the average number of people in the U.S. that suffer from migraines is 13%, the prevalence of migraines in patients with Meniere’s disease is 56%, and the prevalence of migraine in patients with bilateral Meniere’s disease is 85%.
Headaches and Vertigo
25% of people who suffer from migraines experience vertigo along with their other headache symptoms. In many patients, vertigo is the main feature of their migraine.
Most head ache sufferers have a lifelong history of motion sickness and can relate a history of motion intolerance that includes car-sickness, sea-sickness, or an inability to tolerate amusement park rides. A new onset of motion intolerance in an adult is more commonly associated with migraine activity than any other vestibular disorder.
Headaches and Ear Pain
Up to 40% of headache sufferers report sharp ear pains which last only seconds. These may occur infrequently or spontaneously between headaches. Ear pain has many causes, including infections or eustachian tube problems in the ear, TMJ, and referred pain from the extensive lining of the throat. Patients who present to the doctor with ear pains frequently complain that their ears are hypersensitive to touch, to wind, and to cold.
Headaches and Sinus Pressure
There is a great deal of confusion about the source of symptoms for facial pressure. While facial pressure is a symptom of sinusitis, up to 45% of migraine patients report “sinus” symptoms, including tearing, runny nose, and nasal congestion.
Pain in the sinus area does not automatically mean you have a sinus disorder. Sinus and nasal passages can become inflamed leading to headaches. A headache is one of the most prevalent symptoms of patients diagnosed with acute or chronic sinusitis. In addition to a headache, patients with sinusitis also complain of:
- Pain or pressure around the eyes, cheeks or forehead.
- Achy feeling in the upper teeth
- Fever and chills
- Facial Swelling
- Nasal Stuffiness
- Yellow or green discharge
Sinus headaches happen when the sinuses become blocked and swollen. It is very common to experience facial pain and headaches when you have sinusitis. There are lots of different self-help techniques you can try at home to alleviate symptoms, but severe cases should be treated by an ENT specialist. Breathing moist air, using hot and cold compresses to ease swelling, and taking over-the-counter medication can help. If your headaches do not improve, more intensive treatments may be required.
Types of Headaches
- Tension headaches
- Cluster headaches
- Migraine headaches
- Allergy or sinus headaches
- Hormone headaches
- Caffeine headaches
- Post-traumatic headaches
Nearly everyone experiences a headache once in a while.
Headaches are something that many people experience. The pain can vary from region to region in the head and is often accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea or sensitivity to light/sound.
The type of headache one experiences varies depending on where they feel their pain, how long it lasts, and how intense the sensation feels.
If you suffer from persistent headaches and you have additional symptoms, such as a blocked nose, sore ears or facial or dental pain, it is recommended that you see an ENT specialist. Your doctor will carry out tests and assessments to identify possible causes and confirm a diagnosis. They can then discuss treatment options with you, and hopefully, put a stop to painful headaches.
If you experience headaches on a regular basis or you suffer from chronic sinusitis, it’s beneficial to see an ENT specialist, a doctor with expertise in treating and managing conditions and infections that affect the ears, nose and throat.