Headache in the Older Population: Causes, Diagnoses, and Treatments

Jennifer Robblee, Rashmi Halker Singh

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purpose of Review: Primary headaches are less common and differ in presentation in older versus younger individuals. Secondary headaches become more common among older patients. Recent Findings: Diagnosis and management of headaches in those > 65 years are discussed. Migraine and tension-type headaches are rarely new onset in this age group and should be a diagnosis of exclusion. In older individuals, migraine is more likely to be bilateral with less sensory sensitivities. Migraine aura may present without headache; careful assessment is needed to exclude stroke. Other primary headaches discussed include cough, hypnic, and other headaches. Secondary causes discussed include giant cell arteritis, trigeminal post-herpetic neuropathy, sleep apnea, cardiac cephalgia, cervicogenic pain, vascular etiologies, medications, and burning-mouth syndrome. Summary: In older individuals, primary headaches are diagnoses of exclusion, and treatment is affected by comorbidities and polypharmacy. Secondary headaches are a major consideration requiring appropriate workup. Many treatments can safely be offered regardless of age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number34
JournalCurrent pain and headache reports
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • Age
  • Aged
  • Elderly
  • Headache
  • Red flags
  • Secondary headache

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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