A sinus headache without congestion, or the presence of mucus, may result from migraine, a primary headache disorder, or issues with the nose.

Sinus pressure is a sensation of fullness, pain, or pressure around the eyes, cheeks, and forehead.

A sinus headache is a headache that occurs due to a disorder of the nose or the sinuses around the nose. Healthcare professionals do not use the term sinus headache as a medical diagnosis.

People may use the term sinus headache to refer to facial pain relating to a sinus infection or allergies. In most cases, a sinus headache is instead a migraine headache.

This article looks at the causes of a sinus headache without congestion.

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The medical definition for congestion is an abnormal amount of fluid in passages or vessels in the body. Nasal congestion occurs if the nasal passages become swollen with an excess of fluid and mucus.

Sinus headache or pressure may occur without congestion due to:

Migraine

According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery, people may commonly confuse migraine for a sinus issue.

A migraine can irritate the trigeminal nerve, which is a nerve in the head with branches in the cheeks, forehead, and jaw. This irritation may cause symptoms around the sinus cavity, such as pain, nasal congestion, and a runny nose.

The anatomical structure of the nose

People may use the term sinus headache to describe a rhinogenic headache.

According to a 2018 study, rhinogenic headache is the term for nose and eye pain due to a change of structure within the nose or nasal cavity because of injury or disease.

Environmental factors

Environmental factors may cause sinus issues and a headache.

According to the National Headache Foundation, extreme temperatures, dry and dusty environments, stuffy, crowded spaces, and changes in pressure may cause headaches.

Changes in weather may bring on a headache that people think is a sinus headache but is instead a migraine headache.

Additionally, a 2017 study found that unconventional natural gas development, such as fracking, links to symptoms affecting the nasal passages and sinuses, migraine headache, and fatigue.

Primary headache disorder

Sinus headache or pressure may be due to a primary headache, such as a cluster headache. Cluster headaches occur in groups.

Cluster headaches are very painful and can cause pain around the eyes and at the temples. Cluster headaches usually also cause red, swollen eyes.

Tension headaches can also cause pain around the sinuses.

Other causes

Other possible causes of facial pain and pressure include:

  • temporomandibular joint syndrome, which causes pain and affects the movement of the jaw joint
  • clenching or grinding teeth
  • trigeminal nerve pain, or other nerve issues
  • temporal arteritis, which is inflammation of blood vessels around the scalp
  • dental infection

Symptoms of sinus pressure and sinus headache may depend on the underlying cause, but people may experience:

  • pain or a feeling of pressure in and around the sinus cavity, including the cheeks, forehead, or around the eyes
  • nasal symptoms, such as runny nose or nasal congestion
  • redness, tearing, or swelling of the eyes and eyelids

These symptoms may affect one or both sides of the face.

Treating a sinus headache without congestion will depend on the underlying cause.

In most cases, a sinus headache is a migraine episode or other type of headache, such as a tension headache. Treatment may include over-the-counter pain relief medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

If a septal deviation is causing sinus issues, people may require septoplasty, a type of surgery to correct the deviation.

If environmental factors are causing issues or people have a dry nose, it may help to avoid triggers where possible. Saline nasal sprays may help ease dry nose symptoms.

People should contact a doctor if they are experiencing frequent, recurring, or severe headaches.

If people have headaches for more than 15 days a month, or if headaches are severe or frequent, a doctor may be able to prescribe preventive medication.

Sinus pressure or sinus headache does not necessarily indicate an issue with the sinuses, particularly if there is no congestion.

In many cases, a sinus headache is instead a migraine headache or another primary headache, such as a cluster or tension headache.

If sinus pressure or headache recurs or persists, or if people have any severe or concerning symptoms, they can see a doctor to find out the underlying cause and suitable treatment.