Nummular headache and epicrania fugax: possible association of epicranias in eight patients

Pain Med. 2013 Mar;14(3):358-61. doi: 10.1111/pme.12022. Epub 2012 Dec 28.


Objectives: Epicrania fugax (EF) is a novel syndrome presenting with brief pain paroxysms that always start in a particular area of the head to spread immediately either forward or backward. Paroxysms stem from a focal area, in which a well-shaped continuous pain reminiscent of the symptomatic area described in nummular headache (NH) can be present. We aimed to analyze the association of these two epicranial headaches in eight patients.

Methods: We prospectively assessed all patients with EF attending an outpatient headache office from March 2008, when EF was first described, to June 2012. Among them, we selected those patients with a well-circumscribed continuous pain at the stemming point fulfilling the research diagnostic criteria for NH of the International Classification of Headache Disorders II Edition (ICHD-II) appendix. We considered the demographic and clinical features of the selected patients.

Results: Eight patients (five females, three males) were diagnosed with both EF and NH. Mean age of onset was 44.2 ± 12 (range: 23-60). Regarding NH, the diameter of the painful area was 4.4 ± 1 centimeters (range: 3-6) and pain intensity was 4.2 ± 0.7 (range: 3-5) on a 10-point verbal analogical scale (VAS). As for the EF, the radiating paroxysms always started in the NH painful area and lasted 6.6 ± 4.5 seconds (range: 2-15), with a pain intensity of 7.9 ± 1.6 (range 5-10) on the VAS. Five cases had forward radiation, while three cases had backward EF. Four cases had ipsilateral autonomic accompaniments. Six patients required a preventive, and lamotrigine achieved complete response in three of them.

Conclusion: Although the etiology of NH and EF remains uncertain, both syndromes seem to share a peripheral source. Their association in a number of patients is probably reflecting a pathophysiological connection. Lamotrigine might be a good therapeutic option for those patients presenting with both disorders.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Headache Disorders / classification
  • Headache Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Young Adult