Throbbing headache starting after 60

A throbbing headache in the left temple with sensitivity to light and noise, occurring daily and present for almost a year seemed to indicate a typical chronic migraine headache in a man I saw last week. His headache did not respond to pain medications, short courses of steroids and sinus surgery. The MRI scan of the brain and neurological examination was normal. The only unusual part was that this was a 66-year-old man who never had any headaches before and who had no family history of headaches. Migraines can begin as early as infancy and as late as 50’s, but it is extremely unusual to start having migraines for the first time in the 60s. Headaches that occur in later years are more likely to be due to conditions such as brain tumors (primary – glioma or meningioma, or secondary due to metastases from breast, lung and other tumors), subdural hematoma, or inflammation of blood vessels, which was the case in this 66-year-old man. He suffered from temporal arteritis, also called giant cell arteritis. The diagnosis is confirmed by blood tests (elevated ESR and CRP) and biopsy of the artery. Treatment is usually very effective and typically consists of a steroid medication such as prednisone. Unfortunately, many patients with temporal arteritis need to stay on at least a small amount of this medicine for many years if not the rest of their lives and this drug has many potential serious side effects. However, if left untreated temporal arteritis can cause strokes and blindness, so it is very important to diagnose and treat it as soon as possible.

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