Cluster headaches

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Cluster headaches occur as episodes of intense, one-sided headaches. In most cases, the episodes manifest over several weeks. The headache eventually subsides after weeks or years until the next cluster headache develops.

The condition can be relieved with an injection of sumatriptan which is a migraine medication or a nasal spray that contains zolmitriptan or even breathing in 100% oxygen. Remember that avoiding alcohol is required during a period of cluster headaches.

What are the indications?

Cluster headaches involve episodes of intense pain on one side of the head. In every attack, it occurs abruptly without any warning. In most cases, there is pain felt in or around one eye or temple.

Cluster headaches
Cluster headaches involve episodes of intense pain on one side of the head.

The pain can spread to other parts on the same side of the head. This pain is oftentimes described as burning.

The pain can be severe that it causes the individual to become agitated and could not lie down. Some might even bang the head against the wall in frustration due to the pain. The episodes often occur at night time, usually several hours after falling asleep.

During an episode, the following symptoms might also be present:

  • Clogged or runny nose
  • Redness and watery eye
  • Facial sweating
  • Drooping eyelid
  • Swollen eyelid
  • Constriction of the pupils

What are the possible causes?

The hypothalamus becomes overly active during every episode, but it is still not unknown what causes it. During an episode, the hypothalamus is believed to release chemicals that stimulate the nerve cells in the brain to trigger pain and other symptoms.

Most cases of cluster headaches occur for no evident reason. Nevertheless, some have certain triggers. If a potential trigger is identified, it is ideal to avoid it throughout the duration of a cluster period.

  • Alcohol – some develop a headache within an hour of drinking alcoholic beverages.
  • Warm or hot environment
  • Strong-smelling substance such as perfumes, solvents and petrol

It is important to note that those with cluster headaches do not have any abnormality in the brain. In some instances, another family member might also suffer from the headaches.

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