Cluster headaches are so-named because they present as repeated attacks that can last for weeks or even months. The headaches tend to appear at the same time every day until the span of time is over. As well as being excruciatingly painful, each attack can last for hours at a time.
What is the Difference Between Cluster Headaches and Migraines?
One of the most common queries around cluster headaches is the way in which they differ from migraines. An individual with chronic migraines might think they are experiencing cluster headaches, but the symptoms of the two are unique. In addition to headaches, people with migraines tend to feel nauseous, see auras, and be sensitive to light. Cluster headaches are more likely to cause sinus issues such as runny noses or watery eyes. They can also come on suddenly, while migraines tend to develop more slowly.
What Are the Symptoms of a Cluster Headache?
Alongside the debilitating pain, several common signs and symptoms come with cluster headaches. The headache will generally affect only one side of the face, with pain targeted around that eye. The eye might also appear red or weepy, swell, or droop. Individuals might also find it impossible to sit still during a bout. Many need to rock back and forth or pace around the room. In severe cases, some people physically harm themselves and require immediate medical attention.
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What Causes Cluster Headaches?
Although experts do not know the preliminary cause of cluster headaches, the patterns suggest they may have a lot to do with the biological clock. Drinking alcohol also appears to trigger attacks, so it is best to avoid alcohol during the period. Also, while rare in general, cluster headaches are more common in men over the age of 30 than in women.
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How Long Do They Last?
While the cluster period will usually last for weeks at a time, the headaches themselves can last anywhere from a few minutes to hours. During the cluster period, the headaches will occur daily, at around the same time, before subsiding. After the period has ended, people often experience remission lasting months or years.
Will They Come Back?
In rare cases, cluster headaches resolve on their own. However, for the most part, they are an enduring and lifelong problem. The headaches don’t tend to better or worsen with age. Furthermore, many people who experience them develop a chronic condition, eventually experiencing only very short or no remission between bouts. Luckily, some drug treatments are shown to provide relief.
What are the Treatments for Cluster Headaches?
Cluster headaches are not fatal, but they seriously affect quality of life. While most people can combat regular headaches with over-the-counter painkillers, they tend not to help with these headaches. Many of the primary treatments for cluster headaches need a physician’s prescription or administration and include oxygen therapy, nasal sprays, and injections.
Should I See a Doctor?
Anyone who is experiencing a cluster headache, or believes they are, should seek medical attention straight away. Because the condition is recurring or chronic, a doctor needs to diagnose the individual. A good doctor will listen to the symptoms and take action accordingly. Generally, the next step is a brain scan to ensure there are no irregularities. If the tests come back normal and the symptoms continue, cluster headaches are a likely diagnosis.
Can I Prevent Cluster Headaches?
Although triggers do not prompt cluster headaches the way they do migraines, some actions may prevent their onset. As mentioned previously, during a cluster period, patients are advised to avoid drinking alcohol. It is best to also avoid strongly scented chemical-based products such as gas or paint. Additionally, researchers note links between cluster headaches and smoking.
Is There a Cure for Cluster Headaches?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for cluster headaches, simply treatments to make the condition more manageable or prevent or reduce future attacks. The headaches are also difficult for doctors to diagnose and treat, as they come on very suddenly. In rare, chronic cases, physicians might recommend surgery. Although there are surgical avenues, professionals are quick dispute their long-term benefits.
Are There Any Home Remedies for the Pain?
Due to the failure of basic headache treatments to address cluster headaches, it can be difficult for people with the condition to find pain relief. However, like other headaches, some home remedies could assist. Vitamins are a possibility for some — patients who experience cluster headaches may have low magnesium levels. Therefore, taking magnesium supplements in the recommended dosage or eating magnesium-dense foods such as avocados and almonds, could help stave off an attack. Some individuals find vitamin B2 and melatonin also help. As well as these herbal remedies, getting more oxygen into your bloodstream may ease symptoms, and is easy to accomplish with deep-breathing exercises.