What are hemicranias continua?

Steven A. Meyers, MD
Diagnostic Radiology
Hemicrania continua is a very rare headache disorder of unknown cause. It is characterized by continous pain over half of the head which does not switch side. The pain is constant but can fluctuate in intensity. A variety of so called autonomic symptoms also can occur including tearing or redness of the eye, runny or stuffy nose, or a drooping eyelid all on the same side as the pain.

Hemicrania continua are a rare form of chronic headache marked by continuous pain on one side of the face that varies in severity. The symptoms of hemicrania continua fall into two main categories, autonomic and migraine-like. The autonomic symptoms include runny nose, tearing, eye redness, eye discomfort, sweating, and swollen and drooping eyelids, and the migraine-like symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. The disorder has two forms, continuous, with daily headaches and remitting, where headaches may occur for 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.

This answer is based on source information from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

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