What Is A Cluster Headache?
While cluster headaches can come on quickly and become quite severe and even disabling, they are rarely a serious concern, and do not cause any type of permanent damage. They can, however, be a serious detriment to one's daily life, particularly because the duration of these types of headaches can be as long as a few hours. They also have a tendency to recur in groups or "clusters" over a period of a few weeks or months, leading many sufferers to have to live with the concern that another severe headache could strike at any time. The good news about cluster headaches is that they are relatively rare, and they can be treated with a variety of options.
What Causes this Type of Headache?
The cause of the cluster headache is generally unknown, although genetics does seem to play a role in cause for many people. This means that if you have a parent or other family member who has suffered from this variety of headaches, there is a greater chance that you might also. It also appears to occur more often in men than in women.
It is possible that the part of the brain called the hypothalamus is involved in the cause of cluster headaches, since people who experience them seem to have a high level of activity in this area of the brain. There are also a variety of triggers that can bring on a cluster headache, such as stress, fatigue, sleep apnea, drinking alcohol or taking certain types of medications.
Symptoms and Treatment
The symptoms of a cluster headache can be intense and even alarming to someone who experiences one of these headaches for the first time. The pain is described as piercing or burning, and it begins on one side of the head and radiates around to the temple and eye area. The affected eye may become red and puffy, and the nose can become congested as well.
The pain usually comes on rather quickly, and intensifies within minutes after the onset. The full episode may last anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours, making this a debilitating pain indeed. Treatment can include a daily medication to prevent the cluster headaches, or a medicine that can be taken at the onset to alleviate the symptoms before they become too intense.
High-flow oxygen therapy has also been proven to be an effective treatment for some who suffer from severe or frequent cluster headaches.