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Migraine Information (Home) > Types of Migraines > Cluster Headaches

Cluster Headaches: Causes of Cluster Headaches,  Cluster Headaches Symptoms, Medication for Cluster Headache

Cluster headaches, recognized over 100 years ago, are known by the medical term “migrainous neuralsia.”  Before they were recognized as a syndrome that would likely respond to treatment, they were often referred to as the following:

  • Histamine cephalalgia
  • Vidian neuralgia
  • Raeder’s syndrome
  • Erythroprosopalgia
  • Spenopalatine neuralgia
  • Ciliary neuralgia

Cluster headaches are less common than migraine headaches, and commonly affect men more often than women.  The onset of cluster headaches in both sexes normally occurs between the ages of 20 and 50.  Women who become pregnant or use oral contraceptives may notice that their cluster headaches cease under these conditions.  Many people report different types of pain associated with cluster headaches.  The most commonly reported symptoms are as follows:

  • Sudden onset without warning.
  • Most intense pain develops within 2 to 15 minutes.
  • Pain begins around the eye or temple region.
  • Pain is always unilateral.
  • Pain attacks normally occur at the same time each day.
  • The ear, neck or face may also be affected by the pain.
  • Pain attacks generally last anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours.
  • Cycles of pain normally last from 4 to 8 weeks.


Those suffering from cluster headaches also report various signs, symptoms and other problems related to their cluster headaches.  The most widely reported of these are as follows:

  • Blocked nasal passages
  • Red eyes
  • Vertigo
  • Sweating of the forehead
  • Increase in heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Agitation
  • Scalp tenderness

While there is no cure for cluster headaches, there are ways to help relieve the pain caused from them, as well as preventative measures that can be used to try and prevent cluster headaches attacks from occurring in the first place.  Some of the prescription drugs used to control the pain of cluster headaches are as follows

  • Dihydroergotamine
  • Sumatriptan
  • Sphenopalatine blockade
  • Intranasal lidocaine
  • Intranasal capsaicin
  • Indomethacin
  • Opiods
  • Prednisone

Some of the drugs and methods used to prevent a cluster headache from occurring are as follows:

  • Verapamil
  • Steroids
  • Lithium
  • Divalproex sodium
  • Chlorpromazine
  • Clonidine
  • Methysergide
  • Ergotamine tablets
  • Daily opiods
  • Neural blockade procedures
  • Inhaling 100% pure oxygen

Some sufferers choose to explore alternative therapies to deal with cluster headaches, in part due to the fact that conventional medicine has been unable to alleviate their pain and symptoms.  Some alternative therapies that can be used for cluster headaches, and which may or may not work, include the following:

  • Homeopathy
  • Amma therapy
  • Acupressure
  • Acupuncture
  • Spinal manipulation
  • Thai massage

Although the exact cause of cluster headaches is not known, there are known factors that can contribute to the onset of an attack, such as:

  • A change in sleeping patterns
  • Stress
  • Consumption of alcohol
  • Tobacco cigarette use
  • Nitroglycerin
  • Being exposed to hydrocarbons such as perfume or petroleum solvents
  • Becoming overheated
  • Ingestion of certain foods
  • Allergens

 Many doctors, including neurologists, have found that cluster headaches more frequently occur in the seasons of autumn and spring.  This lends to the fact that histamines play a part in cluster headaches.  When too many types of histamine are released from cells, they overload the hypothalamus gland, which in turn leads to a cluster headache.

 While cluster headaches are considered rare in the medical world, they are quite serious, and can be extremely painful and debilitating for those people who are unfortunate enough to suffer from them.  Receiving a proper diagnosis is vital if your cluster headaches are to be managed, and maybe even prevented.  Diagnosing cluster headaches can sometimes pose a problem, as cluster headaches are commonly misdiagnosed as the following:

  • Sinusitis
  • Dental disorder
  • TMJ
  • Migraine headache
  • Tension headache
  • Connective tissue disorder
  • Intracranial trauma

If you are concerned that you are suffering from cluster headaches, consult with a medical professional as soon as possible.  There are treatments available, and there is no need for you to suffer in silence.  Your physician will be able to prescribe a course of treatment to effectively manage your cluster headaches, and also offer you some relief.

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VISITOR COMMENTS on "Cluster Headaches: How to Get Rid of Cluster Headache":

joe said,
31st December 06
i have severe cluster headaches and i am on imitrex and they are not good for your heart as well, but take away the headache. I have run in place and walked around to get the blood moving, is there anything else that i can do to prevent these from coming? very severe pain with a watery eye and only on the left side near the temple. Please let me know if there is anything else i can do to help these at home, the imitrex is getting very expensive. thank you

roddawg said,
19th January 07
I am on Imitrex too and because of my HMO they say I can only have 6 doses every 20 days before they will pay for anymore if I want the medicine it costs me 250.00,I got a tip from another C.H. sufferer and it worked. When i first feel the headache coming on I drink a energy drink such as red bull,boo koo or whatever i can get. you drink the whole can as fast as you can and belive it or not my headache was gone within 20 to 30 mintues. It even helped when the headache if was fullblown.I think it has something to do with the caffene, the omly side effect was that if i get one in the middle of the night i will be up for a few hours. I will take that any day over the pain that i have been cursed with,give it a try.

helpfull????? said,
28th January 07
3 strong soluable painkillers in a bottle mixed with red bull,soon as the pain gets going, sink that, and if you can spray your eye area with a hot shower, not to hot but just till you can feel it working and you will hopefully, best of luck, peace

johnny5 said,
17th February 07
My doctor gives me a methyl dose pack, which usually takes the pain away in 6-8 hours.

FRANK33 said,
15th March 07
I'm at my wits end and don't know what to do with my cluster headaches.I'm seeing a doc in 2 weeks but need to survive till then help please

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