Close look on cluster headaches

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Cluster headaches are considered agonizing episodes of pain in one side of the head, oftentimes felt around the eye. This form of headache is rare but can affect anyone but common among men and likely to start in the 30s or 40s.


Cluster headaches arise abruptly and without any warning. The discomfort is usually intense and often described as a burning, sharp or piercing sensation felt on one side of the head.

It is often felt around the temple, eye and oftentimes in the face. It is likely to occur on the same side during every episode. The individual often feels restless and agitated during an episode since the pain is intense and might respond by pacing, rocking or banging the head against the wall.

Cluster headaches arise abruptly and without any warning.

Remember that at least one of the following associated symptoms might be present:

  • Sweating face
  • Reddened and watery eye
  • Blocked or runny nostril
  • Smaller pupil in one eye
  • Swelling or drooping of one eyelid

The attacks typically last between 15 minutes up to 3 hours and manifest between 1-8 times throughout the day.

Management of cluster headaches

Cluster headaches are not considered dangerous but can trigger intense pain and significantly disrupt with quality of life.

Over-the-counter pain medications are not usually recommended since they are too slow to take effect. The 3 main treatment options available to alleviate the pain once a cluster headache occurs include:

  • Sumatriptan injections – this is given 2 times in a day
  • Sumatriptan or zolmitriptan nasal spray – this is used if the individual does not prefer injections
  • Oxygen therapy – the individual is given pure oxygen via a face mask

These treatment options are generally given to alleviate the pain of cluster headaches within 15-30 minutes.

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