The Facts About Cluster Headaches

Introduction

Cluster headaches are one of the most painful types of headache. They’re characterized by a sharp or burning pain around one eye on one side of your head. The pain can last 15 minutes to several hours, and episodes occur daily during a cluster period, often at the same time each day. On average, people have three to four episodes per day during a cluster period. A cluster period can last two weeks to 1 year, with periods when people have no headaches between clusters. The cause of cluster headaches is unknown, but these factors may play a role: genetics; chemical activity in the brain and nerve pathways; certain foods and medications; exposure to cold air or bright light; barometric pressure changes due to weather conditions

Cluster headaches are one of the most painful types of headache.

Cluster headaches are the most painful type of headache. They affect about 1 in every 1000 people, and cluster headaches usually start around age 30. Cluster headaches can be more common in men than women, and they are rare. If you have a migraine, then you may also experience cluster headaches.

Cluster headaches cause a sharp, piercing pain or burning pain around one eye on one side of your head.

Cluster headache is a neurological disease that causes a severe pain or burning sensation around one eye on one side of your head. The pain can be so severe that it results in disability and may even cause you to lose consciousness. It’s important to note that cluster headaches don’t affect vision, or cause any other symptoms besides the pain.

The pain usually starts suddenly and lasts for several hours, but it may also come in repeated attacks over time (clusters). Symptoms can begin as early as age 10 or 11 up until age 40, although most people who get them experience them between 20 and 40 years old.

Pain from cluster headaches can last 15 minutes to several hours.

The headaches typically last between a few hours to several days. While the pain can be severe, it’s not always that way. The pain may feel like a sharp, burning or piercing sensation and has been described as feeling like pressure on the eyes, forehead or temples. It may also feel tightness in the forehead or around the nose.

Episodes occur daily during a cluster period, often at the same time each day.

The first symptom of cluster headache is an intense pain on one side of your head, which grows quickly and may last from fifteen minutes to several hours. Episodes occur daily during a cluster period, often at the same time each day. Cluster periods can last two weeks to one year, with periods when people have no headaches between clusters (called remission).

On average, people have three to four episodes per day during a cluster period.

The frequency and intensity of attacks varies with each person. On average, people have three to four episodes per day during a cluster period. Some people will experience one or two “clusters” in their lifetime while others may experience clusters repeatedly over many years or decades. Because cluster headache is so painful, most people learn to avoid activities that can trigger an attack.

Cluster headaches are more common in men than women (3:1 ratio) and usually occur between the ages of 20 and 50 years old. Smoking cigarettes appears to increase the risk for developing this type of headache as well as other headaches such as migraines and tension-type headaches.

A cluster period can last two weeks to one year, with periods when people have no headaches between clusters.

In general, cluster headaches are episodic and unpredictable. They can occur once a year, or several times a day for weeks at a time. While the majority of people will have clusters that last six to eight weeks, some patients experience clusters that last several months or even years. Between these periods of pain-free remission, they may have no headaches at all.

There is no “cure” for cluster headaches; however, there are treatments available that can help manage symptoms during an attack as well as prevent recurrence between attacks.

The cause of cluster headaches is unknown, but these factors may play a role: genetics, chemical activity in the brain and nerve pathways.

The cause of cluster headaches is unknown, but these factors may play a role:

  • Genetics. Cluster headaches run in families; they are more common among the first-degree relatives (parents, siblings) of affected people than in the general population.
  • Chemical activity in the brain and nerve pathways. The neurotransmitter serotonin has been linked to cluster headache attacks. Serotonin levels may be lower during an attack than during remission periods between attacks.
  • Environmental factors such as sunlight exposure and alcohol consumption also may play a role in triggering clusters

Cluster headaches aren’t curable, but treatments help reduce the severity and duration of attacks, and prevent future attacks.

Cluster headaches are treatable. Treatment for cluster headaches includes oxygen therapy and medications (triptans) and steroids. Treatments are not curative, but they can reduce the severity and duration of attacks, or prevent future attacks.

Treatments include oxygen therapy and medications (triptans) and steroids.

  • Oxygen therapy. The patient breathes in a high concentration of oxygen through a mask. This can ease the pain because it removes the carbon dioxide from your bloodstream, which makes you feel better.
  • Medications (triptans). These medications in tablet or nasal form are often used to treat cluster headaches. They may help you feel better right away and last longer than oxygen therapy. However, their effects aren’t long-lasting, so they need to be taken frequently during a cluster headache attack until it goes away on its own or another treatment method is started. Triptan medications include Imitrex®, Frova®, Relpax® and Axert®.*
  • Steroids such as prednisone and dexamethasone may also be used to reduce cluster headaches but have side effects like weight gain and mood swings that make them less desirable than other treatments for many people.* Other treatments include acupuncture and surgery

More research is needed on cluster headaches so that better treatments options can be developed in the near future.

There is currently no cure for cluster headaches. However, they can be treated with medication and oxygen therapy. Additionally, researchers are working to develop new treatments that may help people manage their symptoms in the future.

Conclusion

Cluster headaches are a rare and painful type of headache. They are more common in men than women, and usually occur between the ages of 20 and 45 years old. The cause of cluster headaches is unknown, but genetics, chemical activity in the brain and nerve pathways may play a role. Treatments include oxygen therapy and medications (triptans) as well as steroids. These treatments can help reduce severity or duration of attacks, but they do not cure cluster headaches or prevent future episodes from occurring again down the road!

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