Carotidynia is a type of headache that also involves pain in the neck, ear, and face. Vascular changes in the carotid artery of the neck are thought to be responsible for this type of pain, although the exact cause is not clearly understood. Some of the most common symptoms of carotidynia include pain on one side of the head and neck, stuffy nose, and watery eyes. These symptoms are often confused with other medical conditions, such as an ear infection, trigeminal neuralgia, or tonsillitis. Treatment most frequently involves the use of prescription migraine medications, although other drugs may sometimes be used. Any specific questions or concerns about carotidynia should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.
The majority of cases occur in patients under the age of 60, although the reason for this is unclear. Many patients experience illnesses such as an upper respiratory infection or tonsillitis prior to developing symptoms. Exposure to cold weather seems to trigger symptoms in some people. Upon physical examination, the carotid artery in the neck is found to be tender and swollen, an occurrence that may help to obtain an accurate diagnosis. There does not appear to be a genetic component to the onset of this condition, and children of an affected parent do not seem to have an increased risk of developing carotidynia.
Early misdiagnosis is relatively common, with carotidynia frequently being confused with conditions such as trigeminal neuralgia or chronic sinusitis. Many patients suffering from this disorder have a history of migraines, although this is not always the case. The pain associated with this condition can be quite severe and usually involves one side of the face, neck, and head. Prescription medications designed to prevent or treat migraines are typically used to treat this condition, provided that no underlying medical conditions are present.
A relatively rare but potentially serious cause of carotidynia is known as carotid arteritis. This condition may lead to symptoms such as fever, ringing in the ears, or pain involving the tongue or jaw when chewing. Visual disturbances may also occur, sometimes leading to sudden blindness. A minor surgical procedure known as a biopsy is usually performed in order to accurately diagnose this condition and rule out the possibility of more severe complications. Once diagnosed, carotid arteritis is typically treated immediately with the use of corticosteroid medications in the hope of preventing irreversible blindness.