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Paroxysmal hemicrania

Paroxysmal hemicrania is a rare form of headache that brings on severe throbbing and claw-like pain usually on one side of the face near the eye and occasionally around the back of the neck. The pain may be accompanied by:

  • Red and tearing eyes
  • A drooping or swollen eyelid on the affected side of the face
  • Nasal congestion

People with paroxysmal hemicrania may also feel dull pain, soreness, or tenderness between attacks. Attacks typically occur from five to 40 times per day and last two to 30 minutes. The disorder has two forms:

  1. Chronic, in which attacks occur daily for a year or more
  2. Episodic, in which the headaches may decrease or disappear for months to years

Certain movements of the head or neck or external pressure to the neck may trigger these headaches in some people. The disorder is more common in females than males. The disorder usually begins in adulthood.

The nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) indomethacin often provides complete relief from symptoms. Other less effective NSAIDs, calcium-channel blocking drugs (verapamil), and corticosteroids may be used to treat the disorder. People with both paroxysmal hemicrania and trigeminal neuralgia (a condition of the fifth cranial nerve that causes sudden, severe pain typically felt on one side of the jaw or cheek) should receive treatment for each disorder.

How can I or my loved one help improve care for people with paroxysmal hemicrania?

Paroxysmal hemicrania is considered rare, which often means there is not much information known about it. This is usually the case because doctors and researchers do not see many people with paroxysmal hemicrania, which makes it hard to learn from them through observations or large studies.

Consider participating in a clinical trial so doctors can learn more about paroxysmal hemicrania. Clinical research uses human volunteers—both those who are healthy or may have an illness or disease—to help researchers learn more about a disorder and perhaps find better ways to safely detect, treat, or prevent disease.

For information about participating in clinical research visit NIH Clinical Research Trials and You at NIH Clinical Research Trials and You. Learn about clinical trials currently looking for people with paroxysmal hemicrania or other types of headaches at

Where can I find more information about paroxysmal hemicrania?

The following organizations and resources may provide information on paroxysmal hemicrania and other types of headaches:

American Headache Society
Phone: 856-423-0043

National Headache Foundation
Phone: 312-274-2650 or 888-643-5552


Content source: Accessed July 14, 2023.

The information in this document is for general educational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for personalized professional advice. Although the information was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, MedLink, its representatives, and the providers of the information do not guarantee its accuracy and disclaim responsibility for adverse consequences resulting from its use. For further information, consult a physician and the organization referred to herein.

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