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What Causes an Ice Pick Headache?

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What causes an ice pick headache? A common ice pick headache is one that feels like someone is stabbing you in the face. Also called a stabbing headache, many people experience quick jabs of pain that last just a few seconds. They can happen in the same spot repeatedly or in different spots each time. These headaches can occur at any time of the day and can occur anywhere on the body. It is important to understand the symptoms and treatment options before beginning treatment.

Trigeminal neuralgia

Often referred to as tic douloureux, this type of headache affects the trigeminal nerve, the most common nerve in the head. People with this type of pain experience sudden onsets of extreme facial pain, which can last anywhere from two minutes to two hours. These attacks occur because of irritation to the trigeminal nerve, which sends branches to the cheeks, nose, and lower jaw. Because of this, the pain may be triggered by eating or rubbing, and it will worsen over time if not treated.

Although most commonly diagnosed in older adults, the condition is also common among infants and children. Though trigeminal neuralgia is a fairly rare condition, approximately 150,000 people are diagnosed with the condition every year in the U.S. It is difficult to diagnose, as physical examination and neurologic tests do not reveal any abnormalities. People who experience unexplained facial pain may be mistaken for suffering from dental problems or sinus conditions. Similarly, many people may mistake the condition for migraines, multiple sclerosis, and other psychologic disorders.

Ophthalmodynia periodica

A recurring, sharp pain in the eyes can be extremely painful. Ophthalmodynia periodica, also known as needle-in-eye syndrome, causes an ice pick headache. The stabs generally last three seconds or less but rarely last longer than 10 seconds. Although the frequency of attacks is rare, they can occur repeatedly over a period of days or a week. A doctor can help you determine the underlying cause and recommend an appropriate treatment.

Ophthalmodynia periodica can be a serious condition, but its symptoms are very similar to migraine headaches. It can be difficult to diagnose with a doctor, who relies on the description of a patient to make a diagnosis. Although it is not as common as migraine headaches, this condition is often a sign of other problems. Since symptoms of an ice pick headache are common in migraine sufferers, it is important to visit your doctor for a diagnosis.

Herpes zoster

While there is no specific treatment for an ice pick headache, it can be managed with the above remedies. It is important to note that while these headaches occur sporadically and generally go away on their own, they can indicate that you have a more serious condition. If you experience a regular ice pick headache, you should discuss it with your healthcare provider. Your doctor can determine what may be causing your headaches, and prescribe a course of treatment that will make them less frequent.

In a patient with HZO, a history of prior viral infections is required to rule out any possible underlying conditions. Acute HZO is not a life-threatening illness. It can be treated effectively using acyclovir, a drug commonly used for shingles. However, this medication has side effects. The headache can also be accompanied by other symptoms. The treatment for an ice pick headache depends on the source of the pain.


The drug Indomethacin is responsive to the symptoms of an ice pick headache. This type of headache is caused by primary stabbing or idiopathic pain, and its side effects are often mild and temporary. However, this medication has some unforeseen side effects, including stomach bleeding and kidney problems. Because of these side effects, you should always consult your healthcare provider before taking any type of NSAID.

An ice pick headache usually begins at the base of the skull and then spreads to the back of the head, the side, and the area behind the eyes. It can be brief and throbbing, and can resemble the symptoms of a migraine or cluster headache. However, this type of headache is short-lived, occurring several times a day, and never lasts for a long period of time.

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