Cluster headaches, which occur in cyclical patterns or cluster periods, are one of the most painful types of headaches. A cluster headache commonly awakens you in the middle of the night with intense pain in or around one eye on one side of your head.
Bouts of frequent attacks, known as cluster periods, can last from weeks to months, usually followed by remission periods when the headaches stop. During remission, no headaches occur for months and sometimes even years.
Fortunately, cluster headache is rare and not life-threatening. Treatments can make cluster headache attacks shorter and less severe. In addition, medications can reduce the number of cluster headaches you have.
A cluster headache strikes quickly, usually without warning, although you might first have migraine-like nausea and aura. Common signs and symptoms during a headache include:
People with cluster headaches, unlike those with migraines, are likely to pace or sit and rock back and forth. Some migraine-like symptoms — including sensitivity to light and sound — can occur with a cluster headache, though usually on one side.
Chronic cluster periods might continue for more than a year, or pain-free periods might last less than one month.
During a cluster period:
The pain usually ends as suddenly as it began, with rapidly decreasing intensity. After attacks, most people are pain-free but exhausted.
The exact cause of cluster headaches is unknown, but cluster headache patterns suggest that abnormalities in the body’s biological clock (hypothalamus) play a role.
Unlike migraine and tension headache, cluster headache generally isn’t associated with triggers, such as foods, hormonal changes, or stress.
Once a cluster period begins, however, drinking alcohol may quickly trigger a splitting headache. For this reason, many people with cluster headaches avoid alcohol during a cluster period.
Risk factors for cluster headaches include:
See your doctor if you’ve just started to have cluster headaches to rule out other disorders and to find the most effective treatment
Dr. Navin Tiwari is One of the Experienced & Leading Neuro Physician Practicing in Indore since 2013. He is the director and consulting neurologist at Asian Neuro Centre Indore.