How to Treat Cluster Headache?

There is no permanent cure for cluster headaches, but it can be treated with some medications. The goal of treatment is to reduce the severity of pain, shorten the headache period and to prevent the attacks. The cluster headache pain occurs suddenly and may lessen with some time. It can difficult to analyze and treat the pain. However, here are some medications that can provide some pain relief quickly.

Medications for Acute Attack Treatment

CH attacks occur for a short time from 30 – 180 minutes, and often peak rapidly—requiring a treatment with quick onset. The effective treatments for acute attack are:

  • Oxygen

    Inhaling oxygen, 100% at ten to twelve L/min for 15 minutes is one of the effective and safe treatments of acute cluster headache.

  • Dihydroergotamine

    One mg IM is effective in the relief of acute attacks of CH. Patients can take it in intranasal form too.

  • Triptans

    Sumatriptan 20mg intranasal, Sumatriptan 6 mg subcutaneous, and Zolmitriptan 5 mg intranasal are effective in the acute treatment of cluster headache (RCT). Patients suffering from cluster headache can take three doses of zolmitriptan in a day.

  • Lidocaine

    Nasal drops (Topical lidocaine) are effective to treat acute attacks of CH.

Medications for Preventive Treatment

Preventive treatments are recommended to patients based on their bout length. The treatment may be considered as short term or long term, depending on how quickly the medication will act and how long they can be safely used. Here are some preventive treatments to treat cluster headache.

  • Calcium Channel Blockers

    The calcium channel blocking agents’ verapamil such as Verelan and Calan are effective for cluster headache. However, long term usage of verapamil can result in various side effects such as constipation, swelling, low blood pressure, nausea, and swelling in ankles.

  • Corticosteroids

    These are inflammation-suppressing drugs. It is one of the fast-acting preventive medications to treat cluster headaches. Your doctor may prescribe you corticosteroids if your cluster headache condition has started recently or if you have a pattern of brief cluster periods and long remissions. Long term usage can result in side effects such as diabetes, hypertension and cataracts

  • Lithium Carbonate

    Lithium carbonate, used to treat bipolar disorder can help in preventing chronic cluster headache if other medications are not working for you.  Long term use of lithium carbonate results in various side effects including tremor, increased thirst and diarrhea. Your doctor can adjust the dosage to minimize side effects.

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