What Are Cluster Headaches?

\"shutterstock_165362702\"Cluster headaches are the most severe and (thankfully) least common type of headaches. They are named cluster headaches because they occur in clusters. A person may get them often (up to 8 times a day) for a few weeks or months, then they suddenly stop. They may go away for months or years, then they return. Your primary care doctor can help manage your cluster headaches.

What Is a Cluster Headache Like?

Typically, a cluster headache begins with splitting pain that awakens you from sleep an hour or two after going to bed. The pain occurs around one eye. The pain will always stay on that side.

What Causes Cluster Headaches

We don’t really know what causes cluster headaches. Once a cluster starts, headaches occur with clocklike regularity, which suggests that the body’s internal clock may be involved. Cluster headache attacks typically start at the same time of year, such as the spring or autumn.

The trigeminal nerve is involved in the origin of cluster headaches. Activation of a trigeminal pathway in the brain occurs in the early part of a cluster headache. The trigeminal nerve is the primary sensory nerve of the face and is responsible for the sensation of pain around the eye.

The trigeminal nerve is also involved in the process of migraine headaches, and people with a family history of migraines are more likely to have cluster headaches. Unlike migraines, though, cluster headaches are much more common in men than women.

Also unlike migraines, cluster headaches don’t have food or behavioral triggers. If the headaches are in remission, you won’t usually cause a cluster period to start. However, if you are in the cluster period, many things can trigger headaches, such as alcohol or nicotine.

Managing Cluster Headaches

During your cluster headache periods, there are many things you can do to control the headaches. Oxygen therapy is often very effective. Sometimes, triptans—drugs used for migraines—may be effective on cluster headaches. Hormones and local anesthetics may also be effective. In many cases, these medications have to be administered in a clinical setting for maximum effectiveness.

There are also some treatments that may reduce the length of your attacks.

If you are looking for a primary care physician in Littleton who can help you manage your cluster headaches or other chronic conditions, please schedule an appointment with Dr. Andy Fine in Littleton today.

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