Headache induced by Ear, Nose and Throat - Health Education - DesiMD Healthcare - India

Headache induced by Ear, Nose and Throat

Dr.Satish Chandra profile Authored by Dr.Satish Chandra on 19 Dec 2013 - 20:42.

A variety of disorders of the ear, nose and throat can cause associated headache.  Headache is a form of pain. Headache is most frequent of all painful states that afflict humans and accounts for nearly 20% of the complaint evaluated by family physicians.

The differential diagnosis of headache is one of the longest in medicine with more than 300 different types and causes. Headache is one of the most common complaints encountered in E.N.T practice. Although most headaches are benign in nature and its origin poorly understood some secondary headaches can have serious and sometimes life threatening causes such as:

·         Headache due to nose and paranasal sinus diseases

·         Headache due to ear diseases 

·         Headache due to throat diseases

·         Headache due to other causes like migraine, TMJ dysfunction and trigeminal neuralgia

Sinus problems can cause headaches

The sinuses are air-filled cavities inside the skull that make up part of the respiratory system. The main sensory nerve to the sinuses, nose and face (the trigeminal nerve) also has connections with the nerves of the head and upper neck. This is why a sinus infection can commonly result in face pain and headache. Causes of sinus congestion include the cold, flu, hay fever or other allergic reaction, and sinusitis (infection of the sinuses).

Long standing sinusitis can also give rise to complications by spreading to orbits(eyes) and brain, which can present initially as headache with severe symptoms to follow.

Treatment includes:

Normally decongestants and antibiotics and steam inhalation are advised as treatment.  Medications such as nasal decongestants in the form of either tablet or nasal spray can give some relief while antibiotics are used in the case of bacterial infection. Surgery is recommended for chronic sinus problems when the patient does not respond to other types of treatment.

Headaches induced by Ear problems

The ear is made up of three parts - the outer, middle and inner ear. Problems can affect any one of these parts and bring on an associated headache. Some of the more common ear problems include: Infection – caused by either viral or bacterial agents. Infection of the external ear by ear buds or meddling with sharp objects, middle ear infections like ASOM can present with severe pain. Symptoms include pain, deafness, discharge and problems with balance.

Labyrinthitis – the general term for any type of inflammation of the inner ear. Symptoms include dizziness, ringing in the ear (tinnitus) and headache.

Trauma – occurs in situations such as blows to the ear, perforation of the eardrum or foreign bodies lodging inside the canal.

Tumours –Though tumours of the ear (benign or malignant) are relatively uncommon, they can cause associated headache.

Complications of middle ear infections can also present as head ache. Ear is separated from brain by a thin plate of bone. So long standing ear infections can spread to brain and cause head ache along with other symptoms.

Treatment:  stop meddling with the ears. Ear pain followed by cold should be treated by a specialist headacheimmediately otherwise it can lead to long standing sequel. Persons who are having ear discharge should undergo immediate treatment otherwise it can lead to complications along with hearing loss.

Headaches induced through Nose problems

There are various disorders of the nose that contribute to headache. Some of the more common include:

Hay fever (Allergic Rhinitis) –Irritants such as pollen or animal dander, cause symptoms like nasal congestion, watering and itchy eyes and headache. Such allergies can be treated by avoiding known triggers and drugs such as antihistamines.

Hormonal rhinitis – some women experience nasal congestion and stuffiness during pregnancy. This is caused by hormones. The only real cure for hormonal rhinitis is delivery.

Inflammatory Rhinosinusitis – this inflammation of the nose and sinuses is caused by a number of autoimmune diseases, such as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE). Treatment involves treating the underlying disorder.

Non-allergic rhinitis – is similar to allergic rhinitis, but has no identifiable trigger to the reaction. These are treated by antihistamines.

Headache induced by throat problems

There are various disorders of the throat that can cause or contribute to a headache. Some of the morecommon include:

Tonsillitis – the tonsils situated at the back of the throat form part of the body’s immune system. Sometimes they can become infected by viruses or bacteria. The most common cause of tonsillitis is the bacterium streptococcus.

Treatment includes antibiotics, painkillers and plenty of fluids. In chronic cases, surgical removal of the tonsils may be required.

Referred pain – problem somewhere else can present as pain in the face. This is because of the common nerve supply. Mostly presents as ear pain. Lesions in larynx (voice box), throat, sinuses, pharynx(food passage) can cause facial pain.

Malignancy of nasopharynx can also cause the pain in the ears , behind the eyes.


Seek medical advice for headaches

Headache and migraine can be caused by many contributing factors working together. Professional advice is needed to investigate and properly diagnose the specific factors behind a person’s recurring headache. Other triggers may include muscular tension, diet, poor posture and some medication.

*Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.