In the classic tradition of diagnosing literary and historical figures, neurologists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine have examined the literary icon of the century – Harry Potter.
From the paper, “Harry Potter and the Nummular Headache,” appearing in February’s issue of Headache:
Harry’s circumscribed headache location in the distribution of his lightning bolt scar would appear to fit the proposed criteria in the appendix of the International Classification of Headache Disorders, 2nd edition6 for NH. The criteria specify pain exclusively felt in a well-circumscribed region of 2 cm to 6 cm, round or elliptical in shape, either continuous or interrupted by spontaneous remissions lasting weeks to months. We understand through Rowling’s series on Harry’s teenage years that his headaches began in his 11th year, following a traumatic head injury in childhood surrounding the murder of his parents. His headaches were characterized by several months of spontaneous remissions, and as per the epilogue in the 7th book,5 were completely remitted by the age of 18. Rowling describes searing and burning pain along the finite region around Harry’s scar as the major feature of his headache, which is not inconsistent with the NH pain character. Depictions of the scar in the artwork on the book covers, as well as in the film series, show that the area of the scar (and thus, the area of the pain) is certainly confined to an area with a maximal diameter less than 6 cm. Although a frontal location of pain in NH is less common than other regions of the head, a sizeable minority of NH patients do experience pain in that location.7
According to MSNBC‘s interview with author Matthew Robbins, MD, “It’s a good way to educate the public about a condition that can occur in children and often goes unrecognized.”
No word if the healers at St. Mungo’s had a similar diagnosis.