Although most autoimmune disorders are chronic, patients have a number of reasons for wanting to diagnose them early. First and most importantly, there is the concern that these disorders are degenerative – they get worse as time goes by, in a way which may not be reversible.
Of course there’s also the matter of the symptoms themselves. The sooner you can get them under control, the sooner the patient can have a life with less disability.
And this is what makes some recent research into primary stabbing headache particularly interesting.
Stabbing headache is characterized as jolts of headache pain (often in the face or around they eye) that usually last for two or three seconds. It may just happen once, or it could happen many times a day.
Many migraine patients have the occasional stabbing headache. Treatment often involves a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, such as indomethacin.
Primary stabbing headache is not caused by a known underlying disorder (by definition). However, a study published in 2012 following 26 patients with stabbing headache found that over half of the patients also had an autoimmune disorder (Stabbing headache in patients with autoimmune disorders.).
This would include not only multiple sclerosis but also lupus, autoimmune vasculitis, and Sjogren’s syndrome.
Could the damage done by these diseases actually bring on the stabbing pain?
A more recent study found that a flare-up of multiple sclerosis (MS) could bring on the stabbing pain, and that treating the MS would also alleviate the head pain (Stabbing headache as a sign of relapses in multiple sclerosis.).
Could this type of pain be an early sign of an autoimmune disease? At the very least, it could be a sign that a flare-up needs to be treated. If doctors are aware of the connection between stabbing headache and autoimmune disorders, they may be able to ask the right questions to get patients treatment faster.