Objective: To compare the prevalence of frequent headache in children with sickle cell disease (SCD) to that of black control subjects and to assess factors associated with headache in SCD.
Study design: In this cross-sectional study, a headache questionnaire was administered to subjects with SCD and black control subjects. Subjects answered supplementary questions about SCD complications. Clinical and radiographic information were abstracted from medical charts for subjects with SCD.
Results: Children (n = 241) with SCD and 141 control subjects were studied; 32.4% (95% CI 26.5%-38.7%) of subjects with SCD reported having headaches at least weekly, similar to control subjects at 27% (95% CI 19.8%-35.1%, P = NS); however, in children <13 years, headache was more common in subjects with SCD than in control subjects (24% vs 9.7%, P = .013). The prevalence of headache was similar among the different SCD genotypes. Factors associated with frequent headaches in subjects with SCD included older age, frequent vaso-occlusive pain episodes, symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, and cerebral vessel stenosis detected by magnetic resonance angiography.
Conclusion: The prevalence of headaches in children with SCD is similar to the general population; however, younger children with SCD report headaches more frequently than control subjects. The cause of headache is likely multifactorial, and SCD-specific factors may contribute.