Things to know about cluster headache - NH Health

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Things to know about cluster headache

Things to know about cluster headache

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Cluster headaches are known for their occurrence in cyclical patterns or cluster periods, which henceforth give the condition its name. Cluster headache is infamous for being one of the most dreaded and painful varieties of a headache.

A cluster headache usually wakes you up in the middle of the night with its pronounced and intense pain resting on a particular side of your head adjoining the eye area.

According to Dr. Risa Ravitz, M.D, a renowned neurologist in New York City, these spells of persistent attacks, called cluster periods, may continue for weeks and months, ideally trailed by remission stretches when the pain get arrested completely. These remission periods can even last as long as few years.

Thankfully, cluster headache is a rare and atypical condition, which is not life-threatening as well. Proper treatments can shorten the longevity of a cluster headache and make it less severe. Furthermore, medications can reduce the frequency of its contingency.

Symptoms of cluster headache

A cluster headache is found to strike quickly, all of a sudden, without any warning. Common symptoms include:

    • Excruciating pain felt on one side adjacent to the eye area
    • Pain may spread to your head, face, neck, and shoulders
    • Feeling of restlessness
    • Excessive watering of eyes
    • Redness in the eye on the side of the attack
    • Stuffy or running nasal passage on the affected side
    • Sweaty, pale looking skin on your face
    • Swelling of the eye on the affected portion
    • Droopiness in eyelids

Cluster headache pain is characterized by a sharp, burning, or penetrating sensation. People who experience this condition assert that the pain seems like a hot object being stuck inside the eye, or it’s being jolted out of its socket.

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Patients who suffer from a cluster headache can be extremely fidgety. They may walk back and forth, or sit intermittently through the attack.

Dr.Ravitz, being a specialized migraine doctor points out that unlike migraine triggers, people who encounter a cluster headache usually keep from lying down when struck by an attack, because the position aggravates their pain. Symptoms similar to a migraine like nausea, aura, and susceptibility to light and sound may manifest with a cluster headache as well, but only on the affected side.

Causes of cluster headache

Most of the headache neurologists have unanimously failed to ascertain the exact reason of cluster headaches. However, they mention the hypothalamus in the brain, which they suspect to possibly play a part. Cluster pain attacks often occur in clockwise precision during the day. The cluster cycle also follows the seasonal variation of the year.

These patterns indicate the involvement of the body’s biological clock that resides in the hypothalamus located deeply in the central part of your brain.

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Abnormal functioning of the hypothalamus may explain the cyclical nature and definite timing of a cluster headache. Numerous imaging studies carried out by neurologists in New York City have identified incidents of marked hypothalamus activity during the continuity of a cluster headache.
Contrary to migraines and tension headaches, cluster headache isn’t accompanied by any trigger like food, hormonal imbalance, or stress. However, once a headache erupts, alcohol consumption can swiftly provoke a splitting high. That’s why patients with cluster headaches refrain from consuming alcohol during a cluster period. Another probable trigger is surmised to be nitro-glycerine, a drug that is used in the treatment of heart diseases.

Characteristics of cluster period 

Most people suffer from episodic cluster headache periods in which, the headache phase continues over a wide-ranging duration from only a week to more than a year. This is followed by an interim remission period that is completely pain-free and may last for a year’s time before any attack resurfaces.

Chronic cluster headache periods may even last for a year or so. Painless periods have a shorter span of only a month or even less.

During a cluster period:

    • Daily, several occurrences of headaches keep happening
    • Duration of a single attack varies from 15 minutes to three hours
    • The attack happens at the same time of the day
    • Most of the attacks surface during the night, a couple of hours later after going to sleep.

The pain of a cluster headache ends as abruptly as it begins. It’s intensity also plummets rapidly. Once the attack has subsided, most patients feel pain-free but terribly exhausted.

Other more dangerous causes of cluster headache such as an aneurysm should be ruled out.
City Neurology is an online consultation forum for patients encountering headaches, migraine attacks, and other serious neurological conditions, with a group of certified doctors and neurologists via remote telemedicine conferencing and information sharing. City Neurology offers an easy, fast, and sensible approach to effective treatments from the comfort of your home.

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