Because of their relative rarity, most people aren’t familiar with cluster headaches. But for those who suffer from them, they’re often debilitating.
Signs and Symptoms of a Cluster Headache
Cluster headaches are named for the fact that they usually strike in bunches, recurring in a cycle for a period of days, weeks or even months, before disappearing for long periods of remission.
Additionally, the often-excruciating pain clusters around a specific point on one side of the head. Usually, the focal point of the pain is in or behind one eye, or occasionally at the temple. Because they are usually felt near the eye, other cluster headache symptoms often include watering eyes, a runny nose, pupil constriction or drooping eyelids. In some cases, the skin will become pale and sweaty on one half of the face before the headache begins.
Cluster headaches are also known as “alarm clock headaches” for the precise regularity with which they strike, and because they often occur while the person is asleep.
Causes of a Cluster Headache
The exact cause of cluster headaches is still unknown; however, some risk factors for developing cluster headaches have been identified, however. Men are up to six times more likely to develop cluster headaches than women. While smoking is not considered a direct headache trigger, more than half of the people who suffer from cluster headaches are current or former smokers. Cluster headaches seem to run in families; people with close relatives who experience cluster headaches are significantly more likely to develop cluster headaches themselves. Finally, for some people who suffer from cluster headaches, drinking alcohol during a cycle may trigger an attack.
Treating a Cluster Headache
It’s definitely best to consult a doctor if you think you might be experiencing cluster headaches. For the treatment of pain during an attack or cycle of attacks, your doctor may administer oxygen or steroids. The prevention of future attacks is trickier. Consult your physician about the best cluster headache treatment for you.