Coital cephalgia is a headache related to sexual activity usually at or near orgasm (1):
- there may be one episode or several with no defined periodicity
- there is usually a short course, but occasionally it can have a duration of years
- usually no identifiable underlying cause
- may be associated with migraine or tension headache
- incidence is higher in men than women.
The classical orgasmic headache is typically severe, throbbing, or explosive in nature, beginning at the moment of orgasm or shortly thereafter (2)
- this particular type of headache could be classified within the group of thunderclap headache (TCH)
The first time a patient experiences post-coital cephalgia the differential diagnosis includes subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH)
diagnosis with the sentinel headache observed during the development of an aneurysmal
rupture is extremely important (2)
- this intense, sudden type of headache occurs in 30% to 60% of patients days or weeks before rupture of the aneurysm, which seems to result from partial rupture with leakage of blood
- in about 50% of patients, this "warning sign" is abrupt in onset and may be very intense
- all patients with TCH should be investigated with at least a CT scan and MR angiography, since this type of headache is not a frequent benign recurrent headache disorder, and may represent a serious underlying process (2)
As a pattern to the headaches becomes apparent the diagnosis becomes clear.
A NSAID e.g. indomethacin, may be used as analgesia if not contraindicated.
- the pathophysiology of TCH in the absence of underlying pathology
is not well understood
- primary TCH has a distinctive clinical and angiographic profile and must be distinguished from central nervous system vasculitis and SAH
- BMJ 1992;305: 1129
- Valenca MM et al. Cerebral vasospasm and headache during sexual intercourse and masturbatory orgasms. Headache. 2004 Mar;44(3):244-8.
Last reviewed 01/2018