Hemicrania continua is a rare type of headache, felt only on one side of the head or face. What makes this type of headache so rare is that it doesn’t cease, earning it the nickname of “the Continuous Headache”.
The symptoms of hemicrania continua varies in severity. Most patients describe it as a dull or throbbing ache, followed by periods of sharp or stabbing jolts of pain that occur three to five times a day. For some, these headaches can last for months or even years.
Other symptoms may include any of the following:
- Sensitivity to noise or light
- Stuffy/runny nose
- Tearing, redness, or irritation in the eyes
- Droopy eyelids
At times, these symptoms may be aggravated by stress, alcohol, fatigue, lack of sleep, bright lights, or physical exertion.
Because hemicrania continua will often have the same symptoms as other types of headaches, it can be extremely difficult to diagnose. The cause of this condition is still unknown.
Indomethacin, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, is a medication that often provides rapid relief of hemicrania continua headaches. A typical daily dose of indomethacin ranges from 25 to 300 milligrams. Unfortunately, the drug is known to irritate the lining of the stomach and gastrointestinal tract, so patients may need to take acid-suppressing medication along with it.
Injections may also benefit patients in certain situations. Trigger point injections in tender muscles, nerve blocks (trigeminal, facial, supraorbital), or epidural steroid injections may prove effective. Severe cases can be managed as in-patients in multidisciplinary clinics.