Cluster headaches are one of the rarest types of headaches. These headaches are so rare that they only affect one or two people out of every thousand.
Although rare, cluster headache attacks are one of the most painful types of headache. Some women even describe cluster headaches’ pain and discomfort as on par with — or worse than — childbirth.
At the Bend Headache Center, we can help diagnose and treat your cluster headaches.
The Signs of Cluster Headaches
The most common symptom of cluster headaches is pain on one side of the head (also known as unilateral pain). In most instances, the pain stays on that one side of the head, but it can switch to the other side from time to time for some individuals.
Pain is generally centered over the eye, around one temple or in the forehead. At times, it can spread to a larger area — which can make diagnosis difficult.
Timing Is Everything
One identifying factor of cluster headaches is that the severe pain often develops around the same time each day. Individuals who suffer from cluster headaches generally experience pain at night, one to two hours after sleeping.
Cluster headache pain intensifies within five to 10 minutes of first onset and can last between 30 and 60 minutes (or more). Cluster headache pain generally disappears rather abruptly.
Individuals may experience head pain every other day during a bout or up to eight times per day during a bad cluster.
Cluster headaches can also be seasonal; around 80 percent of people living with cluster headache pain have four to 12 weeks of pain in the spring, fall or both. While the reason for this is not entirely known, one of the theories is that cluster headaches may involve the hypothalamus area of the brain.
Cluster headaches can last for years as chronic pain or come on occasionally with episodic cluster headaches. Some individuals can go many years without episodes, also known as periods of remission.
No matter when the pain of cluster headaches strikes, it can be intense and life-altering. Many cluster headache sufferers report living with fear, stress and anxiety because they don’t know when their next headache will strike.
We can help take fear, pain and anxiety out of your life. Call us now to schedule a consultation and learn about our treatment options.
The Pain of Cluster Headaches
Many people with cluster headaches are disabled by their pain and cannot work, go to school or perform day-to-day activities because of their headaches.
The pain of cluster headaches can be so intense that some people walk, pace or even bang their heads against a wall until their pain subsides.
Other symptoms commonly related to cluster headaches include nasal congestion or a runny nose. Some cluster headache sufferers also experience a drooping eyelid and watering and redness in the eye on the afflicted side of the face.
Flushing or sweating of the face can also occur.
Who Is Affected by Cluster Headaches?
In most cases, cluster headaches are more common in men than women. Some studies have shown than men are up to six times at risk of developing the condition then women.
Cluster headaches can develop when a person is in his or her 20s or older. Most people do not outgrow their cluster headaches; however, many people see that the periods between cluster headache episodes get longer with age.
Genetics also play a role in who gets cluster headaches: Approximately one in 20 people with cluster headaches have a close family member with the condition.
Also, heavy smokers experience cluster headaches more frequently than nonsmokers.
Like all headaches, cluster headaches can occur in children but are more frequent in adults.
Cluster Headache Triggers
One of the most common triggers of cluster headache is alcohol, and generally, within an hour or two of drinking, a cluster headache will arise. If you have cluster headaches, we recommend not drinking during a cluster period.
Other triggers include strong-smelling substances such as paint fumes, perfumes, gasoline, bleach or household cleaners. If you’re experiencing a bout of cluster headaches, you should try to avoid strong-smelling things if it is your trigger.
For some, very intense exercise or becoming overheated can bring on an attack, as well.
The best way to determine your trigger is to jot down behaviors or things you notice in a journal to share with us at your consultation.
Cluster Headache Treatments
Conventional cluster headache treatments include over-the-counter pain relievers, injections, steroids, nasal sprays and oxygen therapies. However, in most cases, these treatments are not effective in treating the true source of the problem and aim to treat symptoms or act as preventative treatments for attacks.
Over time, most individuals living with chronic cluster headaches or episodic headaches experience a relapse and more pain in the future — without any answers.
We offer patients a drug-free treatment and target the source of your headaches and pain.
There is no particular test to diagnose cluster headaches, but knowledge of headaches is critical to get the help you need. The staff at the Bend Headache Center are headache experts. They will take a very detailed history of all your symptoms and listen to your experience to make the proper diagnoses.
We can help treat your cluster headaches and stop painful attacks. Call us today to schedule your visit and learn about our treatments.