Vacuum Headache: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Prevention- Medications, Hydration

What is Vacuum Headache?

A vacuum headache is a type of headache, which occurs when any alteration in the pressure overlaps with nasal congestion. This results in closing of the frontal sinuses causing a vacuum like effect in the remaining sinus cavities, which in turn causes intense pain or headache.

Vacuum Headache:

Symptoms of Vacuum Headaches

Vacuum headache itself is a symptom of the aforementioned problems.

Other Accompanying Symptoms of Vacuum Headaches Are:

  • Pain in the sinuses.
  • Pressure sensation around the region of the eyes.
  • Sensation of a weight or feeling of pressure on the forehead.
  • Throbbing pain in sinus cavities (frontal sinuses in particular) and temples.

Causes of Vacuum Headaches

The most common cause is occurrence of change in the altitude in combination with nasal blockage or nasal congestion. This happens commonly when traveling by air. Dehydration due to the plane’s dry air and air sickness, all this leads to nose stuffiness and results in a vacuum headache. The blockage of the nose results in increased oxygen in the sinuses leading to a change in the pressure. When the plane ascends or descends, the pressure changes further create a vacuum in the sinus cavities and causes pain and pressure sensation on the face, and particularly around the eyes. This gets relieved upon stabilization of the pressure or unclogging of the nose. In some cases, the pain may persist even after the stabilization of the pressure. Treatment is required in such cases.

Treatment for Vacuum Headaches

  • The common line of treatment for vacuum headaches is use of decongestants like Sudafed.
  • For severe vacuum headaches, a cortisone injection is given to help open the sinus cavities and blocked nose.
  • Headache subsides after the congestion is relieved and the nose and sinuses get open leading to release in the pressure.

Prevention of Vacuum Headaches

  • Taking appropriate precautions, in order to keep the nose clear, when doing altitude-changing activities, like scuba diving or flying, is important.
  • Medications should be taken before embarking on these activities. Another thing is to avoid dehydration by ensuring you have adequate fluid intake and have plenty of fluids with you.
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 25, 2019

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