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Hemicrania Continua

What is hemicrania continua?

Hemicrania continua, or “continuous headache,” is a rare type of primary headache disorder that causes pain on one side of your face or head. These headaches come in “attacks” that usually occur three to five times daily, making this a debilitating disease. While the attacks vary in severity, they always occur on the same side of the face and are superimposed with additional debilitating symptoms.

What causes hemicrania continua?

The cause of hemicrania continua is still unknown. However, women seem to get it more than men, and the following factors seem to make the symptoms of hemicrania continua worse:
  • Stress
  • Changes in sleep patterns or fatigue
  • Bright lights
  • Overdoing exercise
  • Alcohol
  • Pressure on, flexing, or rotating the neck

What are the symptoms of hemicrania continua?

The attacks of hemicrania continua is the characteristic symptom of this condition. Patients describe the attacks as a dull ache or throb interrupted by jolting, sharp, stabbing pain. In addition, similar to traditional migraines, hemicrania continua also causes nausea or vomiting and sensitivity to noise or light. Redness or tearing of the eyes, runny or stuffy nose, and sweating or flushing of the face on the same side of the headache are also common symptoms of the attacks.

How is hemicrania continua diagnosed?

A diagnosis of hemicrania continua can be made if the patient has experienced pain consistently, without it switching sides or disappearing even briefly, for at least three months. A diagnosis can be confirmed following successful treatment for the condition. If more testing is needed to secure a diagnosis, an MRI scan can be helpful to look deeper at symptoms.

What are the available treatments for hemicrania continua?

Common treatments for hemicrania continua are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), specifically Indomethacin, which has been known to offer quick relief. Despite indomethacin’s success, it can cause irritation of the lining of the stomach and digestive tract. Other medications can help with the symptoms of this drug, but if they get to be too much to handle, another NSAID, called celecoxib, or tricyclic antidepressants can also help.

Where can I find more information on hemicrania continua?

Hemicrania Continua Articles