What is a cluster headache?
A cluster headache is a particular type of headache Overview of Headaches Headaches are one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor. Many things can cause a headache Most headaches aren't dangerous. but some are caused by a serious problem Tension headaches... read more . These headaches happen in clusters, which means you get lots of headaches for a while and then no headaches for a while.
Cluster headaches are more common in men than women
You have severe pain behind one eye or on one side of your head
On the same side as the headache, your nose gets stuffy and your eye waters
The headache usually lasts less than an hour but comes back at least once a day for a month or more
You may go a long time between clusters of headaches
Treatments include oxygen through a face mask and medicine
You may need to take medicine to prevent attacks
What causes a cluster headache?
Doctors aren't sure what causes a cluster headache. However, alcohol can trigger headaches during a cluster period.
What are the symptoms of a cluster headache?
Cluster headaches start suddenly. Symptoms are on one side of your head and are on the same side each time. In an attack:
You'll have very severe pain around one eye and that side of your head
The pain is strongest within minutes and usually lasts half an hour to an hour
The pain may wake you up from sleep and may make you want to pace around
You may also have a stuffy, runny nose and a watery eye on the same side as the pain
Attacks happen one or more times a day, often at the same time of day or night. They usually happen regularly for 1 to 3 months (called a cluster period). Then months or years may pass before attacks happen again.
Although the symptoms are severe and very unpleasant, cluster headaches aren't dangerous and don't cause brain damage.
How can doctors tell if I have a cluster headache?
Doctors suspect you have a cluster headache from your symptoms. To make sure your headaches aren't caused by something else, they may do:
CT scan Computed Tomography A CT scan uses a large machine shaped like a large donut to take x-rays from many angles. A computer then takes the x-rays and creates many detailed pictures of the inside of your body. Each... read more or MRI Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) MRI is a test that uses a machine with a powerful magnet to make pictures of the inside of your body. A computer records changes in the magnetic field around your body. The computer then uses... read more of the head
How do doctors treat cluster headaches?
To treat a headache once it starts, doctors may give you:
Oxygen through a face mask
Medicines called triptans by injection or nasal spray
Triptans are also are used to treat migraines Migraines A migraine isn't just a bad headache. A migraine is a particular kind of bad headache. The pain can be on one or both sides of your head. You may feel sick to your stomach, throw up, and be... read more .
To keep from getting more headaches, you may need:
A nerve block (a shot of numbing medicine into a nerve in the back of your head)
Drugs such as those used to prevent migraines