What Are Cluster Headaches?
Cluster headaches affect about one in a thousand people and affect men more than women. People suffering from a cluster headache have been described as one of the most painful types of headaches. These aches are usually one-sided and are centered around one eye or the temple. They appear suddenly, last for hours and disappear spontaneously. Though these headaches are not life-threatening, they can be quite debilitating and have no cure.
What are the Types of Cluster Headaches?
Cluster headaches are of two types: episodic and chronic. People suffering from one type may switch to the other at any point in their lifetime.
These headaches usually become severe within 5-10 minutes of onset and can last for several hours.
What Are the Symptoms of Cluster Headache?
During an episode of a cluster headache, pain occurs at a fixed time of the day. People have even reported being woken up a couple of hours after they sleep due to the headache. The pain can be agonising within five minutes and last for upto an hour at this intensity. The pain can then stop just as abruptly as it started. Some bad episodes can even mean 8-10 bouts of headaches a day.
Most people experience these headaches during one season of the year, often spring or autumn.
People with cluster headaches often pace about to relieve their pain, or even bang their heads to distract themselves from the pain until it subsides.
Other symptoms that accompany a cluster headache include:
Cluster Headache vs Other Types of Headaches
A cluster headache is easy to differentiate from other causes by its severity, its regularly recurring nature, and the symptoms:
Cluster headaches start all of a sudden and can be accompanied by aura-like visual symptoms such as bright flashes of light. Cluster headaches are usually felt on one side of the head and are located behind the eye. It is a constant and deep burning or stinging sensation.
The pain has even been described as a hot rod piercing the eye and can radiate to the teeth, nose, forehead, temples or the neck on the same side.
Symptoms accompanying cluster headaches include restlessness, a constricting pupil, sensitivity to light or a droopy eyelid.
What are Causes Cluster Headaches?
Although the exact reason for cluster headaches is still unclear, research has shown that there is increased activity in the hypothalamus during an episode. The hypothalamus is that part of the brain that controls temperature, thirst and hunger. It has been theorised that chemicals released from the hypothalamus may cause the blood vessels that supply the brain to dilate, causing cluster headaches.
Higher levels of melatonin and cortisol were identified in the blood during an attack, suggesting a possible relationship between these hormones and cluster headaches.
External factors have also been identified as triggers for a cluster headache. These include:
Various Types of Treatment for Cluster Headaches
There is no cure for cluster headaches as their etiology is still unclear. If you are wondering how to get rid of cluster headaches, treatment mostly focuses on medications to prevent them from occurring and pain relief once it has occurred.
Acute treatment comprises relieving the pain once it has started. The excruciating pain needs to be relieved quickly and is hence a challenging task. Over the counter pain-killers are not effective for these severe headaches:
Recent advances in medicine have aided in the development of a lot of drugs that can prevent the onset of cluster headaches. However, remember that these drugs are not without side effects, and must be prescribed by your treating physician. These include:
Long term medicines for a cluster headache:
Natural treatment options
Here are some home remedies for cluster headaches:
Despite cluster headaches being a long-term problem and a debilitating condition, medical advancements in recent times have made it possible to reduce the occurrence and severity of symptoms. If you are suffering from chronic or episodic headaches, visit our specialists at NH for an accurate diagnosis and effective pain management.
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