'Thunderclap' headache came from hot pepper

Pods of the Carolina Reaper pepper are seen in

A 34-year-old man ended up in an emergency room with an excruciating, days-long headache after he ate a "Carolina Reaper" - the world's most intense chili - at a hot-pepper-eating contest.

This prompted United States doctors to diagnose him with thunderclap headache secondary to reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS).

The doctor who saw the man cautioned anybody eating chilli peppers and experience sudden headaches to seek medical attention at once, according to a BBC report.

"[A thunderclap headache] lasts for a few minutes and it might be associated with dry-heaving, nausea, vomiting - and then it gets better on its own". CT angiography, which allows doctors to visualize blood vessels, showed narrowing of four arteries delivering blood to the brain, suggesting RCVS.

CT and MRI scans of the man's brain were taken but showed nothing out of the ordinary.

The Reaper was the world's hottest chili pepper at the time of the incident.

Thunderclap headaches are relatively rare, and likely only strike those with a genetic predisposition, Royal Melbourne Hospital neurologist Mark Parsons said. So the Carolina Reaper is nearly as hot as a substance used to temporarily blind people.

"It can occur without an identifiable cause, as an idiosyncratic reaction to certain medications (ergotamine, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, alpha- sympathomimetic decongestants, and triptans), or secondary to an illicit drug (cocaine, amphetamines, and ecstasy)".

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But they did discover that a few blood vessels in the brain had changed - sections of his internal, middle and posterior cerebral arteries had all narrowed.

For the uninitiated, the red-coloured, gnarly shaped plant is believed to be the world's hottest chili pepper.

"When we were looking at the literature we found a couple of cases similar to our case", one of the researchers, Kulothungan Gunasekaran of the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, told The Guardian.

Biting into the "hottest pepper in the world" sounds painful enough.

The Carolina Reaper is a cross between Sweet Habanero and Naga Viper chillies and is known to be the hottest pepper on Earth.

The man's symptoms improved without any specific treatment. He had no further thunderclap headaches. So in other words, hot peppers are known to have vasoactive properties, meaning that they can affect the size of blood vessels.

According to the study authors, this is the first time that RCVS has been linked to chili peppers.

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