The diagnoses of the 193 patients aged 65 and over who attended the service of neurology in the past 15 years with de novo headache as their initial and main symptom were specifically analysed. Headaches beginning in elderly people represented only 5.4% of headaches in all ages, whereas 12.1% of the population in this health area was 65 or over. Head pain appeared more often in women (63%), although post-traumatic, cluster, and benign cough headaches were almost restricted to men. Tension type headache (83 patients, 43% of the aged patients) and idiopathic trigeminal neuralgia (36, 19%) were the most frequent diagnoses. Fifteen per cent of the elderly patients v 1.6% of patients under 65 presented headache secondary to serious conditions, such as stroke, temporal arteritis, or intracranial neoplasm. Only one patient over 65 met migraine criteria. It is concluded that whereas the incidence of patients with headache attending a general hospital decreases with age, the risk of headaches due to serious conditions increases 10-fold after 65.