This is a peculiar, one sided headache which takes the form of severe, periodic attacks or paroxysms, and is often inherited. It recurs at more or less regular intervals, as on a certain day of each week, fortnight or month, and the attacks appear and disappear at regular hours. The disorder generally persists for years and then goes away. If it begins in childhood, as it frequently does between the years of five and ten, it may stop with the coming of adult life, but if not outgrown at this time it commonly vanishes during late middle life, about the age of fifty one in a man, or with the “change of life” in a woman. While in many instances arising without apparent cause, yet in others sick headache may be precipitated by indigestion, by eye strain, by enlarged tonsils and adenoids in children, or by fatigue.
There may be some warning of the approach of a sick headache, as mental depression, weariness, disturbances of sight, buzzing in the ears, or dizziness. The pain begins at one spot on one side of the head (more commonly the left), as in the eye, temple, or forehead, and later spreads over the whole side of the head and, in some cases, the neck and arm. The face may be pale, or pale on one side and red on the other. The headache is of a violent, boring nature, aggravated by light and noise, so that the patient is incapacitated for any exertion and is most comfortable when lying down in a quiet, dark room. Vomiting usually comes on after a while, and often gives relief. The headache lasts several hours or all day, rarely longer. The duration is usually about the same in the case of any particular individual who is suddenly relieved at a certain hour generally after vomiting, a feeling of well being and an enormous appetite following often. Patients may feel perfectly well between the attacks, but if they occur frequently the general health suffers.
In the majority of cases there is no apparent cause discoverable save heredity, and for these the following treatment is applicable. Each case should, however, be carefully studied by a physician, if possible, as only in this way can any existing cause be found and removed.
Treatment. Any article of diet which experience has shown to provoke an attack should naturally be avoided. A Seidlitz powder, or tablespoonful of Epsom salts in a glassful of water, is advisable at the onset of an attack. Rubbing the forehead with a menthol pencil will afford some relief. Hot strong tea with lemon juice is sometimes of service. To actually lessen the pain one of the following may be tried: phenacetin (eight grains) and repeat once in an hour if necessary until three doses are taken by an adult; or, migraine tablets, two in number, and do not repeat; or fluid extract of cannabis indica, two drops every half hour until relieved, or until six doses are taken.