Advertisement

What is a SUNCT headache?

Short-lasting, Unilateral, Neuralgiform headache attacks with Conjunctival injection and Tearing (SUNCT) is a very rare type of headache with bursts of moderate to severe burning, piercing, or throbbing pain that is usually felt in the forehead, eye, or temple on one side of the head. The pain usually peaks within seconds of onset and may follow a pattern of increasing and decreasing intensity. Attacks typically occur during the day and last from 5 seconds to 4 minutes per episode. Individuals generally have five to six attacks per hour and are pain-free between attacks. This primary headache is slightly more common in men than in women, with onset usually after age 50. SUNCT may be episodic, occurring once or twice annually with headaches that remit and recur, or chronic, lasting more than a year.

The symptoms of SUNCT include reddish or bloodshot eyes (conjunctival injection), watery eyes, stuffy or runny nose, sweaty forehead, puffy eyelids, increased pressure within the eye on the affected side of the head, and increased blood pressure.

SUNCT is very difficult to treat. Anticonvulsants may relieve some of the symptoms, while anesthetics and corticosteroid drugs can treat some of the severe pain felt during these headaches. Surgery and glycerol injections to block nerve signaling along the trigeminal nerve have poor outcomes and provide only temporary relief in severe cases. Doctors are beginning to use deep brain stimulation (involving a surgically implanted battery-powered electrode that emits pulses of energy to surrounding brain tissue) to reduce the frequency of attacks in severely affected individuals.

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

Continue Learning about Headache

Don't Make These Migraine Mistakes
Don't Make These Migraine Mistakes
If you’re one of the more than 30 million Americans who suffer from migraines, you know getting treatment that works can be tough. These are not your ...
Read More
How effective are injected medications for treating headaches?
Dawn MarcusDawn Marcus
Injecting medications into muscles and nerves around the head and neck can sometimes help reduce hea...
More Answers
What Your Headache Is Telling You
What Your Headache Is Telling YouWhat Your Headache Is Telling YouWhat Your Headache Is Telling YouWhat Your Headache Is Telling You
Chocolate, wine or sex could be to blame for your headaches. About half of all Americans experience a headache at least once a month. Whether it’s a m...
Start Slideshow
Do Patients and Physicians Need to Be in Close Touch Over Migraine Medication?
Do Patients and Physicians Need to Be in Close Touch Over Migraine Medication?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.