Cluster Headache Symptoms

These major symptoms will help identify if you are suffering from the rare cluster headaches.

Cluster headaches are rare among headache types, affecting fewer than one in 1,000 people 1. Commonly accepted to be one of the most painful types of headaches, cluster headaches have several specific characteristics that set them apart from other headaches.

Major Cluster Headache Symptoms

The pain of a cluster headache is often described as burning or a sharp, piercing pain. Cluster headaches occur more frequently at night and usually occur in groups or clusters — hence, the name. While the headache itself may last anywhere from 15 minutes to three hours, it can return quickly, in some cases occurring several times a day. They usually occur around or in the eye, though in some instances the pain may radiate out to other areas of the face, including the forehead, temple or cheek.

Though cluster headaches can originate on either side of the head, the pain is almost always one-sided and remains on that particular side. As the pain is usually localized around the eye, people suffering from cluster headaches often experience side effects such as watery eyes, a runny nose, red eyes, swollen or drooping eyelids and sweaty, pale skin.

Unlike migraines, cluster headaches do not worsen with movement; in fact, people suffering from cluster headaches may prefer to move around, as laying down can increase the pain.

Cluster Headache Warning Signs

Cluster headaches tend to start suddenly. In some cases, a mild discomfort or burning sensation on one side of the head may occur beforehand. Similar to migraine sufferers, some cluster headache sufferers may also experience nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. During a cycle, cluster headaches often recur at the same time each day.

The pain from a cluster headache usually ends within minutes or a few hours. However, cluster headache periods can last for weeks or even months before being interrupted by periods of


The pain from a cluster headache usually ends as abruptly as it begins. However, cluster periods can last for weeks or even months before being interrupted by periods of remission. People suffering from cluster headaches should consult their physicians to determine the most effective headache treatment.

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