Coital Cephalalgia (sex headache) is a rare type of headache which a person experiences after engaging in sexual activity, particularly after an orgasm. The headache is dull in nature and this ache can be present in the neck too. Coital Cephalalgia or Coital Headache can occur suddenly and can be quite severe. They can last from a few minutes to a few hours and very rarely a few days. Most of the times, they do not require any medical attention and subside on their own; however, if the headache persists and is accompanied by other symptoms such as neck stiffness, disorientation or dizziness, then there could be a serious underlying medical condition causing these headaches, such as brain tumors or aneurysm, in which case the patient should seek immediate medical attention and treatment.
Causes of Coital Cephalalgia or Coital Headache
The cause of a Coital Cephalalgia or Coital Headache is, as the name itself suggests, any type of sexual activity, such as masturbation, intercourse, anal sex, oral sex which leads to an orgasm and can set off Coital Cephalalgia or Coital Headache.
Other Serious Causes Which Cause Abrupt Coital Cephalalgia or Coital Headache Are:
- Intracranial aneurysm.
- Arteriovenous malformation, which is an abnormal link between arteries and veins present in the brain resulting in bleeding into the space present in and surrounding the brain.
- Arterial dissection can also cause these headaches.
- Use of certain medications like oral contraceptive pills.
- Certain infections which cause inflammation.
- Coronary artery disease (CAD).
Risk Factors for Coital Cephalalgia or Coital Headache
- Men are at an increased risk than women for suffering from coital cephalalgia or coital headaches.
- Individuals who suffer from migraine headaches are more prone to suffering from coital cephalalgia or coital headaches.
Signs and Symptoms of Coital Cephalalgia or Coital Headache
Coital Cephalalgia or Coital Headache are of two types. The common one has the following symptoms:
- Has an abrupt onset, usually within a few seconds after an orgasm.
- Can be throbbing in nature.
The Other Type Of Sex Headache Which Is Not That Common Has The Following Symptoms:
- Starts as a dull ache bilaterally.
- It can also be accompanied by neck stiffness and tightened jaw muscles.
- The headache builds slowly before an orgasm.
- Increases with sexual excitement.
Serious Symptoms Accompanying The Headache And Which Are A Cause For Concern Include:
- Severe headache
- Loss of consciousness
- Neck stiffness
- Changes in mental alertness
Diagnosis for Coital Cephalalgia or Coital Headache
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): This test helps in identifying any serious underlying causes for the headache by employing magnetic field and radio waves to create cross-sectional images of the structures present inside the brain.
- Computerized Tomography (CT) scan: A CT scan utilizes an x-ray unit which circles around your body and generates cross-sectional images of your head and the brain.
- Cerebral Angiograms: This is a test which helps in assessing and visualizing the arteries present in the neck and brain. In this procedure, a thin, flexible tube is passed through a blood vessel, commonly from a groin, to an artery present in the neck. Contrast dye is then injected into the tube, so that the x-ray machine generates images of the arteries present in the neck and the brain.
- Spinal Tap: Also known as lumbar puncture, is done when the headache is of sudden in nature and if the rest of the imaging tests are normal. In this procedure, a small amount of fluid surrounding the brain and the spinal cord is withdrawn and sent to test for any infection or bleeding.
Treatment for Coital Cephalalgia or Coital Headache
In majority of the cases, coital cephalalgia or coital headaches are benign and nothing to worry about and do not need any treatment. The doctor may advise you to abstain from any type of sexual activity for some time. Other than this, your physician may prescribe preventive medications such as:
- Medications to be taken daily like beta blockers e.g. propranolol to help prevent coital cephalalgia or coital headaches. These medicines are given only if the patient has a history of coital headaches.
- Medications to be taken occasionally, such as indomethacin (Indocin), which is an anti-inflammatory drug. Triptans can also be taken an hour before engaging in any sexual activity to prevent coital cephalalgia or coital headaches.