Hemicrania continua is a rare form of chronic headache marked by continuous
pain on one side of the face that varies in severity. Superimposed on the
continuous but fluctuating pain are occasional attacks of more severe pain.
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: 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.
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 patients.
What is the prognosis?
Patients may obtain complete to near-complete relief of symptoms with
proper medical attention and daily medication. Some patients may not be able to
tolerate long-term use of indomethacin and may have to rely on less effective
What research is being done?
The NINDS supports a broad program of research on headache disorders
aimed at increasing the understanding of their mechanisms and finding ways to
better diagnose, treat, and, ultimately, prevent them.
Select this link to view a list of studies currently seeking patients.
Related NINDS Publications and Information
Headache: Hope Through Research
Information about headaches, including migraines, compiled by the National
Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
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