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Dealing with Ice Pick Headaches     

Ice Pick Headaches are considered to be one of the most severe types of headaches and are accompanied by pangs of stabbing pain also known as stabs, jolts or jabs. The intensity of pain in these headaches is very high and leaves the patient startled. Ice pick headaches are classified as primary headaches as no specific underlying causes for triggering them have been identified. These headaches are more likely to affect adults and are rare among children and teenagers.

Features of ice pick headache:

An ice pick headache is an idiopathic neurological headache accompanied by a sudden, sharp and stabbing pain all over the skull.

As the name suggests, individuals who suffer from this type of headache feel as if their head is being stabbed by an ice pick.

These headaches are absolutely unpredictable and seem to occur out of the blue.

A single attack may last from 5 to 30 seconds and can leave the patient stressed out and shocked.

Ice pick headache attacks can cause short term disability.

In the aftermath of the attack the patient can feel distraught, frightened and confused.

Ice pick headaches can cause fear and embarrassment to the patient due to their unpredictable nature.

The International Headache Society (IHS) has nicknamed ice pick headaches as primary stabbing headaches. In the medical world these headaches are also known as idiopathic stabbing headache jabs, ophthalmodynia and periodica.

Diagnostic criteria:

As recommended by the International Headache Society (HIS) the following conditions must be met in order for the ailment to be diagnosed as Ice Pick Headache:

The headache must occur as a single stab or multiple stabs.

It should originate from the first division of the trigeminal nerve (orbit), temple & the parietal area.

The stabs must last for up to a few seconds and must occur with irregular frequency ranging from one to many on a single day.

No accompanying symptoms should be present such as nausea, dizziness, blurring of vision etc.

No underlying disorder should be detected.

Treatment of Ice Pick Headache:

There is no specific treatment for this type of headaches as they occur for a very short duration but preventative procedures can help provide relief from their frequent occurrence.

Medicines such as Indomethacin are given to prevent these headaches along with NSAIDS, antidepressants and antiepileptic drugs. Relaxation and deep breathing exercises can help remain in control if an attack occurs.


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