What is Cluster Headache?

Did you know?

A cluster headache is a rare type of headache that affects about 1 to 2 people in every 1,000.

It’s a type of severe headache in which the pain is usually limited to one side of the head, tending to recur over a period of several weeks. It is the most painful condition known to humans.   Many women suffering from cluster headache describe its pain worse than childbirth.

Symptoms of Cluster Headache

  • It is described as unilateral (one sided) pain. However, it may vary from person to person. An individual usually feels pain over an eye, temple or the forehead. It can spread to a larger area.
  • Most of the people experience headache at night keeping them awake at night. The pain usually reaches its extremity within 5-10 minutes and lasts for approx. 30-60 minutes. This pain can last for 15 minutes in some people while in others, it can last for 3 hours!
  • A person can experience headache throughout the day (approx. 8 times a day). This can continue for several days and around similar times every day.
  • 80% of the people suffering from this headache experience the bout once in a year. The bout can last for 4-12 weeks, often at the same time in the ‘Spring’ or ‘Autumn’. Moreover, there are chances that an individual might not get cluster attack for several months or even year and is said to have episodic cluster headache. The remaining 20% of people do not have these pain free intervals and are said to have chronic cluster headache.
  • Various other symptoms of cluster headache are recurring pain on the same side of the head, blocked or runny nose, and a drooping eyelid /watering/ redness in an eye, and flushed or sweating face.

Cluster Headache Facts

  • It can start at any age, but most of the individuals who experience cluster headache are in their 20’s or older.
  • Approximately 1 in 20 people with cluster headaches have a family member who is suffering from cluster headache.
  • Men are more prone to cluster headaches than women (by five to six times).
  • It is also more common in heavy smokers. As with all forms of headache, cluster headache occurs in children but it is less common than in adults.

Triggers of Cluster Headache

The few common triggers of cluster headaches are:

  • Alcohol is one of the well-known triggers of cluster headache. An individual having cluster headaches can get a bout within an hour of drinking. If you have cluster headache you should not drink any alcohol during a cluster period.
  • Strong smelling substances such as bleach, perfume, solvents, petrol, paint fumes, and perfume, can trigger an attack in some people. Make sure to avoid these things during an episode of cluster headaches.
  • Heavy smokers are at more risk of developing chronic cluster headache. Avoiding or quitting smoking should be considered.

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