Common Primary and Secondary Causes of Headache in the Elderly


  • Conflict of Interest: None.



Headache in the elderly, defined as individuals aged 65 and older, although less prevalent than younger individuals, can present as a diagnostic challenge, given the increase in potentially fatal diseases within this population.


These individuals require a complete history, neurological examination, and assessment of potential secondary causes of headaches.


Secondary causes include temporal or giant cell arteritis, subdural hematomas, central nervous system (CNS) tumors, strokes, and CNS infections. Once secondary conditions are ruled out, then primary causes of headache are considered such as tension-type headache, migraine, cluster headache, or hypnic headache.


This article reviews the distinguishing characteristics of the most common types of headache in patients over the age of 65 years old, along with potential diagnostic tests and treatment.