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Short-Lasting Unilateral Neuralgiform Headache With Conjunctival Injection and Tearing (SUNCT)

By Stephen D. Silberstein, MD, Professor of Neurology and Director, Headache Center, Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University

Short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache with conjunctival injection and tearing (SUNCT), a rare disorder, resembles cluster headaches. It usually causes short but frequent bouts of pain around the eye on one side of the head.

Because of their similarities, SUNCT and cluster headaches are often grouped together.

Usually, pain occurs around the eye on one side of the head. People may have up to 200 bouts of pain a day, and the pain may last from 5 seconds to over 6 minutes. The affected eye is red (called conjunctival injection) and frequently waters (tears).

Doctors diagnose SUNCT based on symptoms and results of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), done to rule out other causes.


  • Lidocaine

  • To prevent attacks, anticonvulsants or injection of certain drugs

Lidocaine (an anesthetic) is given intravenously to relieve immediate pain.

To prevent attacks, doctors may give people anticonvulsants (such as lamotrigine, topiramate, or gabapentin) or inject drugs to block or stimulate the nerve that supplies the affected eye.

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