Hemicrania Continua

What is Hemicrania Continua?

Hemicrania continua is a chronic form of headache marked by continuous pain that varies in severity and always occurs on the same side of the face and head. Superimposed on the continuous but fluctuating pain are occasional attacks of more severe pain. The headache may last from minutes to days. Symptoms fall into two main categories: autonomic, including runny nose, tearing, eye redness, eye discomfort, sweating, and swollen and drooping eyelids; and migraine-like, including nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. The disorder has two forms: chronic, with daily headaches, and remitting, where headaches may occur for a period as long as 6 months and are followed by a pain-free period of weeks to months until they recur. Most patients experience attacks of increased pain three to five times per 24-hour cycle. This disorder is more common in women than in men. Physical exertion and alcohol use may increase the severity of headache pain in some patients. The cause of this disorder is unknown.

Is there any treatment?

Indomethacin, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), usually provides rapid relief from symptoms. Other NSAIDs, including ibuprofen, celecoxib, and naproxen, can provide some relief from symptoms. Amitriptyline and other tricyclic antidepressants are effective in some individuals.

What is the prognosis?

Individuals may obtain complete to near-complete relief of symptoms with proper medical attention and daily medication. Some people may not be able to tolerate long-term use of indomethacin and may have to rely on less effective NSAIDs.

What research is being done?

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and other institutes of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) support research related to hemicrania continua through grants to major medical institutions across the country. Much of this research focuses on finding better ways to prevent, treat, and ultimately cure disorders such as hemicrania continua.



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