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NINDS SUNCT Headache Information Page


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What is SUNCT Headache?

SUNCT-Short-lasting, Unilateral, Neuralgiform headache attacks with Conjunctival injection and Tearing-is a rare form of headache that is most common in men after age 50. The disorder is marked by bursts of moderate to severe burning, piercing, or throbbing pain, usually on one side of the head and around the eye or temple. The pain usually peaks within seconds of onset and may follow a pattern of increasing and decreasing intensity.  Attacks typically occur in daytime hours and last from 5 seconds to 4 minutes per episode. Individuals generally have five to six attacks per hour.

Autonomic nervous system responses include watery eyes, reddish or bloodshot eyes caused by dilation of blood vessels (conjunctival injection), nasal congestion, runny nose, sweaty forehead, swelling of the eyelids, and increased pressure within the eye on the affected side of head. Systolic blood pressure may rise during the attacks. Movement of the neck may trigger these headaches. SUNCT may be a form of trigeminal neuralgia and is considered one of the trigeminal autonomic cephalgias, or TACs.

Is there any treatment?

These headaches are generally non-responsive to usual treatment for other short-lasting headaches. Corticosteroids and the anti-epileptic drugs gabapentin, lamotrigine, and carbamazepine may help relieve some symptoms in some patients. Studies have shown that injections of glycerol to block nerve signaling along the trigeminal nerve may provide temporary relief in some severe cases, but the headaches recurred in about 40 percent of individuals studied.

What is the prognosis?

There is no cure for these headaches. The disorder is not fatal but can cause considerable discomfort.

What research is being done?

The NINDS conducts a wide range of research on headache disorders. This research aims to discover ways to better diagnose, treat, and ultimately, prevent these disorders.

NIH Patient Recruitment for SUNCT Headache Clinical Trials

Organizations

Column1 Column2
American Headache Society Committee for Headache Education (ACHE)
19 Mantua Road
Mt. Royal, NJ   08061
achehq@talley.com
http://www.achenet.org
Tel: 856-423-0043
Fax: 856-423-0082

National Headache Foundation
820 N. Orleans
Suite 411
Chicago, IL   60610-3132
info@headaches.org
http://www.headaches.org
Tel: 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
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
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.

Last updated April 16, 2014