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SUNCTS Headaches

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SUNCTS stands for 'Short-lasting, Unilateral, Neuralgiform headache attacks with Conjunctival injection and Tearing Syndrome'.

Who Does this Syndrome Affect?

There are no criteria for people who suffer from SUNCTS. However, people who suffer from migraines are more likely to be affected. Sufferers are healthy people who experience the stabbing headache, and they have not been diagnosed with serious head injuries, although nerve damage is a significant factor.

How Does SUNCTS Affect a Sufferer?

This syndrome is a debilitating problem that many sufferers have to deal with on a weekly, daily or even hourly basis.

The main symptoms of SUNCTS are 'shooting' or 'smacking' pains in the head usually concentrated in and around the temple region. These pains are as quick as an electric shock. They can come singularly at irregular intervals, or continuously. Most people suffer one or two attacks during a year, but severe sufferers can end up having in excess of 50 attacks an hour which then makes them unable to move or react to anything but the pain.

In particularly bad cases the sufferer may get swelling of the eyelids with problems ensuing with vision. In some cases their vision can be completely compromised, which alone can be dangerous for obvious reasons - for example the sufferer could be driving at the time of an attack.

What Would the Diagnostic Criteria Be?

There are four main criteria of SUNCTS which are:

  1. Pain is stabbing and lasts for a fraction of a second. It can occur with a single 'shock' of pain, or several following each other.

  2. It recurs at irregular intervals of hours to days.

  3. Pain confined to the head and exclusively or predominantly felt in or around the temple area.

  4. Diagnosis depends upon the exclusion of structural changes at the site of pain and in the distribution of the affected cranial nerve.

Are there Treatments to Combat the Pain?

There are various forms of medication on the market which either stop the pain completely or help reduce the severity of an attack. But not all sufferers can be helped. In these cases, an opiate-based drug is usually the only form of medication. Even then the pain can be severe enough to make the sufferer bed-ridden.

Below is a quote from a sufferer who recently attended a neurology centre:

I was requested by the professor treating my condition to attend a teaching seminar, at the Walton Centre for Neurology, for neurologists from around the country so that they may see, examine and question me relating to the condition. It was said by the professor that a practising neurologist would be lucky to see such a case once in ten years! None of the attending 'experts' were able to diagnose the condition without the assistance of the professor.

This is because there are many very similar conditions for which it can easily be mistaken for; the most common being classic headache syndrome and trigeminal neuropathy. Treatment by drugs and operations are available to successfully treat these, and many more head pains. The etymology of this condition is such that treatment is very much hit-and-miss. It is totally inoperable and incurable.

You can find a complete guide of the symptoms, triggers and possible treatment of headaches and migraines here.

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