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Date of last update: 10/04/2017.

Forum Name: Headaches

Question: Sharp pain during plane descend

 princetonlim - Sun Aug 12, 2007 9:59 pm

I am 38 years old, Male.
During a flight around 5 years ago, I had an very sharp pain when the plane descends, starting from the top of my left eye, shooting up to the top of my head. I had similiar pain on the flight before, but not as excruciating. I am worried that my blood vessels may burst or get stroke because of that and I didn't fly after that.
My question is : 1. will my blood vessels burst or will I get stroke because of that? 2. What can be done before the flight to prevent such sharp pain? 3. What are the risks if I do fly again?
 Dr. Chan Lowe - Thu Aug 16, 2007 1:13 am

User avatar Hi Princetonlim,

I suspect that your pain may have been due to occluded sinuses. The area you are describing is the area of the frontal sinus. If the opening was blocked, perhaps due to congestion or sinusitis, the air pressure in the sinus would not be able to adapt to the new air pressure. This can cause tremendous pain.

This phenomenon is essentially the same as what happens when your ears pop during take off and landing.

Using a decongestant medication prior to take off or landing may help to make sure your nasal passages and sinuses are open to reduce the issues with this.

It is unlikely that you would get a stroke from the pressure changes during landing. It is possible to develop some blood clots during long flights that could potentially cause a stroke if they were able to bypass the lungs some how (such as through a small opening in the heart called a patent foramen ovale) and get to the brain. To help prevent these clots from forming it is advisable to get up periodically and walk around during long flights.

Best wishes.

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