Cluster Headaches - Causes and Cure

Cluster Headaches - Causes and Cure

What are Cluster Headaches?

As the modern lifestyle is getting more complex and fast, new types of lifestyle issues are giving birth to newer health issues. Most of the head related health issues are traced to stress and exposure to radio waves. Cluster headache is one form of headache that many of us have experienced at some point in our busy lives. We aim to share more information around its causes and cure.

What is Cluster Headache?

Cluster headache is characterized by intense pain on only one portion of the head such as left, right or top of the head. It is also cyclical in nature. Patients usually describe the intensity of the pain as ‘drilling’ and recurring in phases. Accompanying features around this form of headache include eyes drooping, sweating on the side of the face where the pain occurs, changes in pupil sizes, or even eye watering.

What Are The Symptoms of Cluster Headache?

Interestingly, males are more susceptible to this form of headache than females. In general cluster headaches affect 1 out of every 1000 humans. There are cases where 6 year olds are affected by it.

In addition to the above symptoms, the most common symptoms are pain in the eyes due to which they turn red, humming sensation in the gums, sensitivity to light and specific aromas. Almost 90% of the patients describe restlessness as the primary feature when undergoing a headache. The pain usually lasts anywhere between 15 minutes to an entire day. A session of deep sleep brings relief.

What Causes Cluster Headaches?

Strangely, the primary cause of this sensation is yet to be uncovered. However, certain factors are usually accompanied by a cluster headache. MRI scans have revealed abnormalities in the artery that connects eyes to brain. Studies have also linked higher headache attack percentages to alcohol consumption. Smoking is another major contributor. The above get aggravated when the atmosphere is that of anger, stress and other negative emotions. Hence, it’s only after a history of such symptoms that the doctors usually attribute the current condition to that of a Cluster headache.

What is The Treatment?

After thorough research on the cure and successive effects, doctors have listed two categories of curing this condition. The first is relief when in pain and the other is preventative cure.

Firstly, relief from current attack of the pain is usually achieved by pumping excess oxygen to the patient. It has been established that more than 70% of the cases were relieved by wearing oxygen masks. However, this has its own challenges especially when one is on the move. Injections of a particular chemical called Sumatriptan has also shown results. However, spray or other oral version did not have much success.

Secondly, steroids have been suggested for those who get frequent attacks of this nature. This is a more advanced form of medication and is to be done only in the presence of a qualified medical practitioner. Doctors insist this as the last resort as this leads to certain side effects like memory loss or nerve effects.

Overall, the agreement is that this is lifestyle induced. At the first version of the headache, it is wise to quit smoking and drinking. Regulate lifestyle by regular physical activity preferably swimming as this has a great effect on the nervous and circulatory system.

Reviewed By:

Dr. Kaushal M. Bhavsar (MBBS, MD)

Assistant Professor in Pulmonary Medicine, GMERS Medical College, Ahmedabad