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Being Aware Of Other Conditions That Have Symptoms Similar To Sinusitis

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Sinusitis – or what people often refer to as a sinus infection – refers to inflammation of the tissue that lines the sinuses. Infection can occur when the sinuses become swollen and blocked and can't drain.The sinus cavities then fill with fluid, creating an environment for viruses and bacteria.

While people with sinus infections don't always experience all the same symptoms, other medical conditions can produce symptoms that mimic sinusitis. Carefully noting all your symptoms can help your doctor determine whether you are suffering from sinusitis or another problem.

Other Types of Headaches

A stuffy nose, nasal discharge, and facial pain and pressure are common symptoms of sinusitis, but headache can be a symptom as well. Still, you shouldn't assume that what you have is a sinus headache just because your sinus passages are blocked, as other conditions can cause headaches.

  1. Migraine headache. Even though sinus infections cause pain around and behind the eyes, what seem like recurrent sinus headaches, but which aren't accompanied by other symptoms of sinusitis, could actually be a migraine.

  2. Tension (stress) headache. Since sinus pain can trigger tension headaches, it's possible to suffer from a combined sinus-tension headache.

  3. Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders. Although these conditions generally cause jaw joint pain and pain in facial muscles that surround the jaw, headache is another symptom often associated with TMJ disorders.

  4. Dental problems. While sinus and dental pain are similar, inflammation of the maxillary sinuses – located above the teeth on each side of the nose – usually follows sinus pain. A buildup of fluid and pressure in the maxillary sinuses can cause your upper teeth to ache, which may lead you to think that it's dental pain.

  5. Tumor/Cancer. Headache can be an early symptom of a brain tumor. Severe unilateral facial pain that presents as cluster headache and affects the ear, jaws, and temporal region on the side of the head also can be an early symptom of lung cancer.

Acid Reflux

Some of the common symptoms of acid reflux are similar to those of sinusitis. Acid reflux, also known as GERD, is a condition characterized by acids backing up from the stomach into the esophagus. This backup of acid can irritate the throat and cause coughing. In response, the lining of the throat produces a thick, sticky phlegm. This excessive mucous production can affect the sinuses.

Although sinusitis and GERD share common symptoms, the treatments differ. That's why it's important to know whether a sinus infection or something else is causing the nasal drainage and thick phlegm in your throat. While a sinus infection can cause post nasal drip when the inflamed sinuses secrete more mucous, GERD causes thick mucous in the throat, which can feel like post nasal drip.


Although some people suffer from allergies and sinusitis both, some of the symptoms differ. Allergy symptoms may include:

  • Sneezing

  • Itchy, watery eyes

  • Scratchy or sore throat

While nasal allergies can worsen or lead to sinus problems, a key difference in the symptoms of sinusitis and an allergy is the nasal drainage. Nasal drainage associated with allergies tends to be clear. When you have a sinus infection, nasal drainage is thick, white, or discolored (green or yellow). Contact an allergist, like Asthma and Allergy Center, for more help.