The Most Common Causes of Chronic Sinus Headaches

Man who suffer from chronic sinus headache


A sinus headache is caused by a sinus infection which is also known as sinusitis or rhinosinusitis. Sinusitis occurs due to allergies, infection, air pollution, or structural problems in the nose. Most cases of sinusitis are due to viral infections. A bacterial infection follows if the symptoms of sinusitis last for more than 10 days or if an individual suddenly feels worse after starting to improve.

There is 2 types of sinusitis, acute and chronic sinusitis. Acute sinusitis is a sinus infection that develops in a few days time and lasts for a short period of time. Most instances of acute sinusitis last for a week but it can sometimes last for 2 to 3 weeks. Sinusitis is acute if it lasts for 4 to 30 days and it is subacute if it lasts for 4 to 12 weeks. Acute sinusitis is a common condition and most people will have this condition with a cold.

Chronic sinusitis is a persistent inflammatory condition where the cavities around the sinuses or the nasal passages get swollen and inflamed for at least 12 weeks despite attempts of treating the condition. Chronic sinusitis is not a common condition. Chronic sinus headaches are brought about by chronic sinusitis.

Chronic sinusitis causes a mucus buildup and hinders the drainage. Breathing through the nose is difficult and the area around the face and eyes may feel swollen.
Facial tenderness or pain might also be present.

Chronic sinusitis may be due to an infection, by a deviated nasal septum, or by nasal polyps or growths in the sinuses. It usually affects young and middle-aged adults but it can also affect children.

Causes of Chronic Sinusitis and Headache

Many instances of chronic sinusitis usually develop after an acute sinusitis infection.
Many instances of acute sinusitis normally go away after 2 to 3 weeks or even sooner. In some instances, the symptoms of acute sinusitis do not go away and become chronic or persistent.

Nasal polyps – Nasal polyps are sac-like growths in the tissue that can block the sinuses or nasal passages. They start growing at the top of the nasal cavity and move outward and upward into the open sinuses in the cheeks and forehead. The polyps can prevent the drainage of mucus in the nasal cavity and the circulation of air when they grow large enough. Individuals with polyps sometimes report symptoms of colds that last for months and they even lose their sense of smell.

Allergies – Inflammation that takes place with allergies like hay fever can block the sinuses. Allergies can imitate the symptoms of infectious diseases and some individuals who suffer from allergies can be plagued for several weeks to several months of the year. Allergies can cause an increase in the production of mucus which can result in congestion.

Deviated nasal septum – Septum is the wall between the nostrils. A crooked septum may block or restrict sinus passages.

Respiratory tract infections – Respiratory tract infections such as colds can block mucus drainage, thicken, and cause an inflammation of your sinus membranes.

Colds or Flu – Many cases of acute sinusitis are due to colds or illnesses that are like flu. Flu and colds result from viruses that can spread to the sinuses. The infection may persist and last as a viral infection resulting in a viral sinus infection.
Sometimes, bacteria can add on the viral infection which may lead to a bacterial sinus infection that can worsen the infection, make it last longer, and cause more changes or damage to the sinus’ lining.

Allergic rhinitis – This type of allergy can cause swelling and an inflammation of the tissues located on the inside lining of the nose and block the channels for the sinus drainage. It makes the sinuses more prone to infection.

Other medical conditions – The complications of diseases such as cystic fibrosis, HIV, gastroesophageal reflux, or other immune system related conditions can bring about the nasal blockage.

Facial surgery or injury – Individuals who have undergone trauma or surgery on the facial bones may have unusually narrow and irregularly shaped sinuses which can result in poor drainage. This creates an environment for the multiplication of pathogens.

Frequent exposure to or sniffing of irritants – Individuals without allergies can also develop symptoms similar to that of allergy as a result of dealing with various chemical and environmental irritants. Chemical fragrances, mold, dust, and aerosols are examples of irritants. These substances irritate the lining of the nose making them produce more mucus and experience congestion.

Smoking – Individuals who smoke are at a risk of developing sinusitis because of the irritants that can be found in cigarette smoke.

Certain congenital abnormalities – Individuals who were born with facial abnormalities or oddly-shaped sinuses can have unusually narrow and irregularly shaped sinuses that may cause poor drainage in the nasal cavity.

Other causes are:

  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Asthma
  • Poor immune system
  • Inflammatory disorders
  • Kartagener’s syndrome or primary ciliary dyskinesia
  • Rare tumors of the nose
  • Diabetes
  • Pregnancy
  • Previous cheek or nose injury