HIV and Headache: A Cross-Sectional Study

Headache. 2017 Nov;57(10):1545-1550. doi: 10.1111/head.13183. Epub 2017 Sep 14.


Introduction: The head and neck are the second most common locations for pain among HIV-positive individuals. Most studies were conducted among HIV patients at an advanced stage of the disease.

Methods: This was a cross-sectional study. Patients with HIV and CD4+ T lymphocyte counts >500 were included. Semi-structured interview, the Headache Impact Test (HIT-6), and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale were used.

Results: Of the 119 cases included, 63% were men. The mean age was 35.5 ± 10.4 years. Among the patients, 103 (87%) had headaches, 53 (45%) had migraines, 50 (42%) had tension-type headaches, and 53 (45%) had substantial and severe impact of headaches. Eleven patients had headaches that started after they had been diagnosed with HIV. These patients had more migraines (72% vs 43%; P < 0.05), greater intensity (8 ± 2 vs 6 ± 2; P < 0.01), and impact (HIT-6: 60 ± 11 vs 51 ± 12; P = 0.02) of headaches compared to others HIV patients. There were no correlations between CD4 counts and the intensity, frequency, or impact of headaches.

Conclusions: HIV-positive patients had a high frequency of headaches, which had a great impact on patients' lives. The pattern most often found was migraine. There was no correlation between CD4 counts and the severity of headaches.

Keywords: HIV; HIV infections; headache; headache disorders; migraine disorders; secondary; tension-type headache.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • CD4 Lymphocyte Count
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / complications*
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology*
  • Headache / complications*
  • Headache / epidemiology*
  • Headache Disorders / complications*
  • Headache Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Time Factors