What are cluster headaches?
Cluster headaches are described as excruciating attacks of pain that can be felt on one side of the head. These will most commonly be felt around the eyes. Although it is rare to suffer with cluster headaches, the symptoms are fierce and sometimes debilitating.
Who can get them and what are the symptoms?
Cluster headaches are most common in men and usually start between the age of 30-40, however they can affect anyone of any age. Cluster headaches occur suddenly without any prewarning. The pain is usually a sharp, burning or piercing sensation that can often be felt around the temple and eye area, but can sometime spread to the face. Unfortunately, you will likely have repeat attacks, that will usually be felt in the same place.
The headaches will usually be accompanied with one or more of the follow symptoms:
· Red and watery eye
· Blocked or running nostril
· Sweaty face
· Swelling or drooping of the eyelid
· Smaller pupil in one eye
Why are you getting cluster headaches?
The most frustrating part about cluster headaches may be that you don’t know what the cause is! There is a link between the headaches and a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. This small part of the brain is responsible for maintaining body temperature and hormones. There may be a genetic link with cluster headaches as it is common for them to run in families.
These headaches may be triggered by something such as alcohol, smoking or a strong smell such as perfume or petrol. You notice a trigger, then it is a good idea to avoid that activity.
How often do they occur and should I seek medical advice?
The headaches will usually occur in attacks or bouts. These bouts can last between 4-12 weeks before they settle down. During the bout, the headaches will usually occur at the same time each day. There can be a number of months or even years between the bouts, however they will usually occur at the same sort of time of year.
If you think you are experiencing cluster headaches then you should see a doctor. You may be referred to a specialist such as a neurosurgeon or neurologist. It is likely that they will need a blood test or brain scan to rule out any other conditions. If it is cluster headaches then the scan should look normal.
This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.