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Cluster Headaches

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches – so called because sufferers tend to have several headaches one after another in ‘clusters’ separated by periods of remission – are headaches of intense pain that can last from 15 minutes to up to 3 hours at a time.

Cluster headaches are most commonly unilateral (although some sufferers report having ‘shifting’ headaches that move from one part of the head to another with the onset of the next attack in the cluster) and the onset of the first attack is often very sudden and without warning.

cluster headaches 2

They are far more commonly suffered by men than women and for the majority of sufferers, there is no warning that an attack is about to happen. However, some people do report a slight ‘shadow’ pain in the area where the attack is about to happen shortly beforehand.

What causes cluster headaches is currently unknown and due to the intensity of the pain, many sufferers mistake the first attack for something considerably more serious like the beginning of a brain tumor or multiple sclerosis until they seek treatment.

cluster headaches 3

Sufferers of cluster headaches generally report that the pain associated with the condition is the worst pain that they have ever known with many women suffer is reporting that the pain is considerably worse than giving birth without anesthetic. Generally speaking, the pain is felt behind the eyes or in the temple, although it can stretch out into the muscles of the neck, with many sufferers describing the feeling as being akin to having a red hot poker stuck in their eye.

And, considering that some sufferers will have cluster headache attacks three or four times a day for weeks on end, it is hard to imagine how painful and debilitating condition could be (although this graphic might give you some idea!):

When the condition was first recognized and postulated by Dr. B. T. Horton in 1939, he suggested that suffering cluster headaches could drive any man to suicide, which is one of the reasons why they are also known as ‘suicide headaches’ as well.

cluster headaches 4

Fortunately for the majority, it is believed that as few as 0.1% of the population are forced to suffer cluster headaches but for those who do, the pain is far worse than anything the rest of us (even the most severe migraine sufferers) are forced to endure.

Trigeminal neuralgia is a similar condition to cluster headaches, another form of headache where the pain is intense but in this particular example, it is more common for the pain to be felt around the cheek area rather than behind the eyes or in the temple.

cluster headaches 5

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Types of Headaches
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Cluster Headaches


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