What is a Cluster Headache?
August 26, 2010
Although many people suffer from some type of headache, and migraines are also very common, the majority of people can’t answer the question “what is a cluster headache?”
Cluster headaches are very rare, affecting less than one in a thousand people and are usually experienced by men. Their cause is not completely understood.
So what is a cluster headache? It is an excruciatingly painful headache, lasting for a period of between five minutes and an hour, which occurs several times a day or week. A cluster headache attack peaks very quickly, with the pain reaching its height within minutes.
Episodic cluster headaches occur over a period of a few days or weeks, after which the sufferer will experience a pain free period with no attacks. Those that suffer from chronic cluster headaches, however, will experience attacks regularly with no break.
What are the Symptoms of Cluster Headaches?
You should always consult your doctor if you think you are having cluster headaches, but here are a few of the signs you could look for:
- Agonising pain, usually centred on one eye, which peaks rapidly
- The painful eye has a droopy lid and tears
- Stuffiness in your nose
- Attacks that come on shortly after you wake up
- Attacks that occur regularly at the same time each day
Cluster Headache Treatments
The types of painkillers that can be used to treat regular headaches generally have very little impact on cluster headaches. The most effective abortive medications are sumatriptan based drugs such as Imitrex.
Cluster headaches can be avoided by taking preventative treatments such as beta-blockers, by undergoing nerve stimulation therapy, or in extreme cases by having surgery to destroy the nerves that carry pain signals from the brain to the face.
Consult your doctor before you consider taking Imitrex and other drugs for cluster headaches. You want to be sure you have correctly diagnosed your condition, and that you are undergoing the most appropriate treatment for your headaches.