Cluster Headache and Other Trigeminal Autonomic Cephalalgias

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This article covers the clinical features, differential diagnosis, and management of the trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias (TACs). The TACs are composed of five diseases: cluster headache, paroxysmal hemicrania, short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache attacks with conjunctival injection and tearing (SUNCT), short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache attacks with cranial autonomic symptoms (SUNA), and hemicrania continua.


New classifications for the TACs have two important updates; chronic cluster headache is now defined as remission periods lasting less than 3 months (formerly less than 1 month), and hemicrania continua is now classified as a TAC (formerly classified as other primary headache). The first-line treatments of TACs have not changed in recent years: cluster headache is managed with oxygen, triptans, and verapamil; paroxysmal hemicrania and hemicrania continua are managed with indomethacin; and SUNCT and SUNA are managed with lamotrigine. However, advancements in neuromodulation have recently provided additional options for patients with cluster headache, which include noninvasive devices for abortive therapy and invasive devices for refractory cluster headache. Patient selection for these devices is key.


The TACs are a group of diseases that appear similar to each other and to other headache disorders but have important differences. Proper diagnosis is crucial for proper treatment. This article reviews the pathophysiology, epidemiology, differential diagnosis, and treatment of the TACs.

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