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    Migraine or Sinus Headache?

    Different Treatments continued...

    Other meds that were made to treat epilepsy, depression, and high blood pressure also can prevent migraine attacks. So can Botox shots. Women who have migraines linked to their menstrual cycles might get a prescription for hormone therapy.

    Your lifestyle also matters. Things that ease stress -- such as exercise, relaxation, and biofeedback -- may also keep migraines away and make them less severe. It’s also important to learn the things that can trigger your headaches and avoid them.

    Let's say you have a migraine. But you don't know that, and you treat it with pain relievers for what you think is a sinus headache.

    That may make matters worse. You might get some short-term relief, but you could wind up with a "rebound" headache afterward.

    "A lot of sinus medications contain analgesics [pain relievers]," Silberstein says. "Overuse of analgesics can cause rebound headaches."

    Masquerading as a Sinus Problem

    It's understandable to think at first that you've got a sinus problem if you have a headache, stuffy nose, and watery eyes.

    But your body's pain response may have fooled you.

    "If you give a human pain in the head, particularly in the forehead," Goadsby says, "there is a reflex that activates nerves that produce eye watering, itchiness of the eye, stuffiness, and runny nose."

    "If you didn't know that all forms of pain do that, then those symptoms are [mistakenly] associated with sinus disease," Goadsby says.

    When to Get Help

    Make an appointment with your doctor if your headaches interfere with your daily life or don't get better with over-the-counter medications.

    "If you are going to take medicine to treat a headache and are not sure what you have, it's a good time to see a doctor," Goadsby says.

    But get medical help right away if you have a headache that:

    • Keeps getting worse.
    • Comes with other symptoms such as vision loss or muscle weakness.
    • Happens with a fever or stiff neck.
    • Comes on suddenly and feels like the worst headache of your life.

    "If you're complaining to a doctor that you've got a headache that comes and goes, it should be considered migraine until proven otherwise," Silberstein says.

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    Reviewed on May 13, 2016

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