Although cluster headache episodes are usually short, they are extremely painful. These episodes usually happen around the same time of the year and can last a few days. This is why a lot of patients confuse their symptoms with seasonal allergies(1). To get some kind of relief from this intense pain, cluster headache treatment is needed.
Since these types of headaches are usually more intense than migraine attacks, but they’re short, they perhaps don’t receive as mcuh attention as they should. This is especially because while the patient is experiencing these symptoms, they are in a great deal of pain that deprives them of functioning properly.
In fact, this type of head pain is among the rarest types of headaches. They usually affect more men than women, and many patients start to get them in their 30s. They might disappear for years but they tend to come back around the same time of the year and without any prior warning signs.
Cluster Headache Treatment Options
This type of pain is usually activated by the trigeminal nerve in our brains. Some neurological messages affect this nerve and trigger a headache. This nerve is responsible for the hot and cold feelings in our faces. This is why patients usually experience a hot feeling near their eyes and this feeling travels to other parts of the face. Patients sometimes experience a burning or piercing pain on one side of the face too. This pain might be constant or throbbing and usually reaches its maximum level within a few minutes.
There is no absolute cluster headache treatment, and unfortunately, no one knows how to get rid of them entirely. For this reason, all treatment options on how to get rid of a headache aim to shorten the length of the headache episodes and to decrease their intensity.
While this might not be a cure, this approach will help patients get back to their daily activities and will help them live normally. The most challenging part about treating this kind of pain, however, is that it doesn’t come with any warning signs. A patient could be doing quite well and suddenly starts to experience agonizing pain on one side of their head or behind an eye. This can make them unable to sleep, drive, read or even talk. For this reason, patients need fast-acting medications that are able to help them cope with the pain.
Medication and Surgery
Doctors usually prescribe different medications for cluster headache treatment as over-the-counter drugs (OTCs) seem to be too weak for this type of pain. One options that works is that a lot of patients experience great improvement with wearing oxygen masks for about 15 to 20 minutes. Inhaling 100% pure oxygen at a minimum rate of 12 liters per minute has proved to relieve the pain symptoms within 15 minutes. This kind of treatment has no side effects but you will have to carry the oxygen cylinder with you at all times. A lot of patients find this quite impractical.
Some migraine medications might also work as cluster headache treatment, even though the two types of headaches are very different in nature. If you are diagnosed with this painful but rare condition, your doctor might prescribe preventive medications. These aim to lessen the length and the intensity of the headache episode before it happens. However, such medications are usually taken for short periods. Once the expected time of the episode has passed, your doctor will stop your medication.
Another supplements that seems to work well is magnesium for migraines, which may or may not be a way to treat this kind of pain too.
On very rare and extreme occasions, doctors will recommend surgery for patients who suffer from chronic epidsodes. This might be the only solution for patients who can’t benefit from medications or are worried about their side effects. Still, such an aggressive cluster headache treatment is left as the last option and will not be considered unless all other routes have been explored.
Cluster headache treatment is unfortunately not straightforward, as this condition is quite rare and not properly understood.
However, there are many ways to help you deal with this very rare but also very painful condition. As discussed above, this can include taking preventative medication, as well as prescription painkillers. Other more invasive options include surgery, but this is only a last resort if all other options have been exhausted.
Overall, this painful condition is tough to treat because it doesn’t come with any warning signs. However, if you are a sufferer, rest assured that if you consult with a medical professional, that you will find a way to deal with this condition, even if it just means finding ways to manage and lessen the intensity of the pain.
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