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How do ENTs Treat Headaches?

long haired brunette woman in striped shirt has mild headache

Forty percent of the world have reported suffering tension headaches, while at least 10% of the population suffer from migraines. Severe and persistent headaches can be debilitating and lead to challenges completing a number of daily functions that we often take for granted. But how do ENTs treat headaches? Headaches can often be caused by disorders of the ear, nose and throat, and ENT doctors will be best placed to diagnose and treat your headache.

Which ear, nose, and throat conditions can cause headaches?

There are a number of ENT conditions that lead to headaches, and which your ENT doctor would be best placed to treat. These may include the following:

  • Sinusitis 
  • Ear infections
  • Nerves in the ear, nose or throat
  • Deviated septum

When you visit your ENT you may discover that you have tension headaches or migraines. Your ENT will aim to find out the underlying cause of your headache to assist with the best possible treatment plan.

How do ENT doctors treat these specific headaches?

The treatment of these conditions will depend on the diagnosis of your ENT. Although the symptoms will be a headache, it is possible that your treatment will be related to your specific diagnosis. Read on to find out more about each condition and the treatments available.

Sinusitis 

Sinusitis is an infection of the membranes surrounding your sinuses. Your sinuses are located around your cheekbones and forehead. Sinusitis causes these to swell up, blocking your sinuses and causing facial pain, tension and headaches. Sinusitis is called acute if it lasts for less than 4 weeks, and chronic if it persists after one month. 

There are a number of causes of sinusitis, including allergies, an infection or potentially structural discrepancies in the nose, like a deviated septum. If your headache is based around your forehead or face, you might have sinusitis. Treatments might include a nasal spray, nasal corticosteroids (sprays to treat inflammation), decongestants, or over the counter pain relief like ibuprofen. 

Your ENT may check for sinusitis by using a CT scan to take images of your nasal passages, conducting an allergy test or inspecting your nose via nasal endoscopy. 

Ear infections 

Ear infections can affect the inner, outer and middle ear, and can be caused by a variety of different symptoms. Ear infections can often lead to headaches and can even cause migraines in severe cases. Your ENT specialist will check the inside of your eye to locate the cause of the ear infection, and then may prescribe antibiotics depending on the severity of the infection. You may be recommended specific ear drops, as well as decongestants or over the counter pain relief to help manage the additional symptoms, like headaches.

Nerves in the ear, nose or throat

If nerves in the ear, nose or throat are trapped or damaged, this could lead to headaches. There is a nerve in the throat called the glossopharyngeal nerve which might be damaged due to infection or even surgery. If this is irritated in any way, it could cause intense headaches and pain in your ear or throat. Treatment for what is known as glossopharyngeal neuralgia is primarily pain relief, and may require surgery in extreme cases to take pressure off the nerve.

Deviated Septum

A deviated septum is when the wall between your nostril passages is not symmetrical, and deviates to either the left or right. A deviated septum can be present from birth, or as the result of an injury. Over time, a deviated septum can worsen due to age or a new injury.  A deviated septum will often make pre-existing conditions worse by narrowing one of the nasal passages. 

A long term solution to a deviated septum is surgery. Your ENT may also prescribe allergy medication, decongestants and over the counter pain relief for mild deviation that leads to conditions like sinusitis or exacerbates allergies.

What types of headaches are caused by these conditions?

If you have a headache caused by one of these conditions, you may experience one of the following headache types:

  • Migraines - migraines can cause symptoms like dizziness, aversion to light, and nausea. 
  • Tension headaches - tension headaches describe a dull ache around your forehead, head or neck. Sinusitis may manifest as the symptoms of a tension headache.
  • Cluster headaches - affecting one side of the face and around the eye. These are often debilitating and require stronger medication than over the counter medication, like steroids.

ENT Physicians Inc can provide world-class expertise and treatment of ENT related headaches, relieving both your pain and the underlying issue. To find out more about our services, please call 419-776-5028 and contact us today.