Hemicrania Continua

woman with headache

Hemicrania Continua

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.


American Council for Headache Education
19 Mantua Road
Mt. Royal, NJ
[email protected]
Tel: 856-423-0258
800-255-ACHE (255-2243)
Fax: 856-423-0082

National Headache Foundation
820 N. Orleans
Suite 217
Chicago, IL
[email protected]
312-274-2650 888-NHF-5552 (643-5552)
Fax: 312-640-9049


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).


Prepared by:
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of
Bethesda, MD 20892


NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only
and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal
agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be
obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or
is familiar with that patient’s medical history.

All NINDS-prepared information is in the public domain and may be freely
copied. Credit to the NINDS or the NIH is appreciated.