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J Headache Pain. 2010 Dec;11(6):469-76. doi: 10.1007/s10194-010-0229-9. Epub 2010 Oct 21.

Headache, epilepsy and photosensitivity: how are they connected?

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  • 1Department of Medical Genetics, Wilhelmina Children's Hospital, Utrecht University Medical Centre, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Although headache and epilepsy have often been associated, the precise electroclinical and pathophysiological interaction between these disorders and in particular its relations with photosensitivity is as yet to be fully understood in adults or children. The association between headache and epilepsy commonly occurs in all types of epilepsy and not only in occipital epilepsy. Generally, peri-ictal headache is often neglected, regardless of its severity, because patients are more concerned about their seizures. Altered cerebral cortex excitability may be the link between these two conditions and photosensitivity shows this. The physician should bear this association in mind when dealing with epileptic and migraine patients so as to be able to offer such patients an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment; this should be borne in mind when declaring epileptic patients 'seizure free'. To date neither the International Headache Society nor the International League against Epilepsy mention that headache/migraine may, on occasion, be the sole ictal epileptic manifestation. Lastly, studies designed to investigate the triggering role of photosensitivity in both headache and epilepsy are warranted.

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