SUNCT and SUNA: an Update and Review


Purpose of Review

The purpose of this review is to provide an update on the clinical features, diagnosis, pathogenesis, epidemiology, and treatment of the rare primary headache disorders short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache attacks with conjunctival injection and tearing (SUNCT) and short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache attacks with autonomic symptoms (SUNA). Together these entities are known as short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache attacks (SUNHA).

Recent Findings

Recent case reports of secondary SUNCT and SUNA due to medullary infarcts support the theory that the trigeminohypothalamic pathway is involved in the pathophysiology of SUNHA. While medical therapy for SUNHA has not significantly changed, surgical therapy for refractory SUNCT and SUNA has made advancements with a recent case series demonstrating the efficacy of deep brain stimulation.


We will discuss the pathophysiology of both the pain and the autonomic symptoms experienced in SUNCT and SUNA attacks as well the medical, procedural, and surgical options for treatment with emphasis on recent advances. Specific secondary causes reported in the recent literature will be discussed in brief.

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Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance•• Of major importance

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Karissa N. Arca.

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Conflict of Interest

Karissa N. Arca and Rashmi B. Halker Singh declare no conflict of interest.

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This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Uncommon and/or Unusual Headaches and Syndromes

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Arca, K.N., Halker Singh, R.B. SUNCT and SUNA: an Update and Review. Curr Pain Headache Rep 22, 56 (2018).

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  • SUNA
  • Trigeminal autonomic cephalalgia
  • TAC