Cluster Headaches


This neurological problem creates cyclical patterns, called "clusters," of intense headaches. You may have these headaches regularly over a period of weeks or months. They may stop for months or years, and then return again.


Doctors don't know what causes cluster headaches. They may be related to the hypothalamus. This section of your brain produces hormones that control many body functions. Smoking, alcohol use, specific foods, bright light and stress have all been named as possible triggers. However, triggers do not seem to play a large role in cluster headaches.


A cluster headache typically feels like a sharp, burning pain. It often starts while you are sleeping. The pain is usually felt around one eye. It may cause the eyelid to droop and the pupil to constrict. The pain may radiate to other areas of your head. You may have a flushed face and a runny or a stuffy nose.


Attacks may last from 15 minutes to three hours. During a cluster period - when attacks are frequent - headaches may happen every day at regular times for weeks or months until the cluster period has finished. The headaches may not return for months or years.


Cluster headaches cannot be cured, but treatment may relieve your symptoms and reduce the frequency of attacks. Breathing oxygen through a mask provides quick relief for many people. Medications, including corticosteroids, synthetic hormones and pain relievers may be helpful. They may be given through IVs, nasal sprays, inhalers or injections. If you do not respond to these methods, nerve blocks may provide relief.

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Willis Knighton Health