Primary headaches are less common and differ in presentation in older versus younger individuals. Secondary headaches become more common among older patients.
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. 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.