The headache is excruciatingly severe and unilateral. It can also occur in clusters. Cluster headaches are characterized as intense burning and dull pain. They can be found in or around the temple or eye, and sometimes in the cheek or jaw. The affected eye may be bloodshot or teary. This side’s nostril can become blocked and may run excessively.
Other symptoms include a reduced pupil size, a drooping lid, and flushed skin. The pain quickly intensifies in 5-10 minutes and peaks at a peak for 30 minutes to two hours. The pain usually worsens if the person is not able to stand or lie down. Cluster headaches can occur suddenly and can occur at any time. They most often occur between two and three hours after falling asleep.
They are usually experienced during rapid eye movement (REM) phase. They typically last less than two hours. They can be severe headaches that last for up to two hours. After a few episodes, a chronic phase can begin.
Cluster headaches can be caused by a vascular headache disorder, or a disruption of serotonin (a neurotransmitter/chemical in the brain). Cluster headaches are more common than migraine headaches which tend to affect women more frequently. Although the cause of cluster headaches is unknown, current research suggests that the swelling of blood vessels in the brain may be linked to chemically active proteins in nerve endings surrounding the blood vessels of the trigeminal nervous (the fifth cranial neuron). Most often, the first attack occurs in adolescence and early 20s.
Many patients report that alcohol triggers attacks. Some patients report that alcohol triggers an attack. Others report that stress, glare or eating certain foods can also trigger an attack. There is almost never a family history of headaches similar to this.
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Cluster headaches are usually sudden and unpredicted. Half of all cases result in the patient being awakened within two hours after falling asleep. An attack can start with pressure in the temple or eye. The pain is severe, persistent, and unilateral. Within 15 minutes, the pain can reach its peak. An individual attack usually lasts less than two hours. The patient may experience additional stabbing pains that are added to the constant severe pain towards the end of the attack.
Patients with cluster headaches are more active than patients with migraine headaches and can even become violent during attacks. Many people apply pressure or cold to the area. They also try to keep their head down but not to lie down. This can cause cluster headache pain and increase. The condition should be easy to diagnose by a physician. However, there are some tests that can be done to rule out other conditions that may cause similar pain, such as an aneurysm in the carotid vein in the head, a tumor made of new blood vessels, sinusitis or glaucoma.
Cluster headaches can usually be managed with medication. A small percentage of patients with cluster headaches are unable to be controlled by medication. This makes it very difficult for them to get treatment. Cluster headaches are not responsive to painkillers that take effect slowly. Inhaling 100 percent oxygen can often provide relief. This is the best treatment for cluster headaches that occur mostly at night. Some people find ergotamine tartrate to be an effective pain relief.
However, the dosage should be controlled in order to avoid nausea and side effects. It can also be prescribed to prevent attacks. Sumatriptan (Imitrex), has been shown to be effective in migraine headaches as well as acute cluster headache attacks. It is administered subcutaneously at the onset of an attack. Prednisone may be prescribed for cluster headaches if they are recent in onset or if there is a history of frequent attacks and long remissions. Side effects make it unsafe to use for long-term.
Cluster headaches affect approximately 60% of people. There have been many types of surgery that have been used over time to treat chronic cluster headaches. However, the best ones are those that kill the pain-sensitive cells in the fifth cranial nervous system. Radiofrequency heating may be more effective than other invasive procedures. It uses a needle to kill the trigeminal root nerve fibres. This therapy is typically used after all other treatments have failed. Are there any other tests that can be done to rule out other possible causes of headaches? What causes the headaches? What medication can you prescribe? What side effects are there? What effect can certain foods and/or drinks have upon these headaches? These episodes will never stop. Is there any way to reduce the discomfort of an episode?