What are cluster headaches? Well, the answer is not very pleasant. This type of headache is an extremely painful but short-lived headache that can last for 30 minutes(1) to 3 hours. They tend to recur seasonally due to which many people confuse them with seasonal allergies or stress.
This article will help you understand what a cluster headache is, by elaborating more on the causes, symptoms and treatment.
What are Cluster Headaches?
These very painful headaches are extremely rare. They are so intense and sudden that they can even wake up the affected individual from deep sleep.
The people diagnosed with one often complain of excruciating pain in half of their body, which includes the eye, neck, shoulder, head, and face.
What are the Causes?
The underlying cause is still unknown. Researchers believe that they are likely to occur when a single nerve pathway in the brain region is activated. Studies have shown that the hypothalamus becomes overactive during each attack.
The hypothalamus is a small region of the brain that is responsible for hormone production. Whenever it is overactive, it releases neurotransmitters that stimulate the nerve cells, and the result is a bout of cluster headaches.
What are The Headaches’ Signs?
These terrible headaches are sneaky in nature, and they can occur without any apparent warning. However, the affected individuals would complain of flu-like symptoms or signs before each attack.
To understand what they are, we need to learn about the symptoms. Here is a list of common symptoms:
- Warm and red face
- Facial sweating
- Runny nose
- Red, swollen and watery eye
- The affected eye has smaller pupil
- One-sided pain
What are the Treatments?
Cluster headaches restrict the affected persons from carrying out their daily tasks and disrupt their sleep pattern which is why it is necessary to address the situation in time. There are various alternatives through which the person can be relieved from the constant pain. For instance, you can use over-the-counter (OTC) medications.
Treatment through Supplements
Vitamin B2: This is an important vitamin that is necessary for health as it maintains normal blood cells and boosts energy levels at the same time. The deficiency of vitamin B2 can result in inflammation and nerve damage, which can further intensify attacks of cluster headaches. So, it is necessary to have a healthy amount of vitamin B2 supplements on a daily basis.
Magnesium: Medical trials have shown that the lower levels of magnesium in the blood can cause the individual to be at a higher risk of having these headaches than the ones who have sufficient supply of magnesium. So if you are prone to bouts of thse headaches, you should incorporate magnesium supplements or injections after regular intervals.
Treatment through Drugs
Since most people don’t understand what cluster headaches are and how they are treated, here are two most effective ways of treatment: oxygen therapy and prescription drugs.
Oxygen therapy is the most common method and if prescribed, the affected individual will have to breathe oxygen through a mask connected to an oxygen cylinder for around 15 to 20 minutes. Apart from being safe, this method is fairly effective when it comes to the treatment.
Furthermore, if you are looking for prescription drugs to treat your condition, then your doctor might prescribe:
How Can You Prevent Them?
If you now understand what cluster headaches are, you can work on avoiding this medical condition. This is because awareness is the first step to trying to get a grip on all the triggers that might cause them.
For instance, there are certain headache triggers present in the environment in the form of food, drinks and other food that can result in the attacks.
If possible, try to stay clear from all such triggers which include:
- Strong odors
- Refined sugar
- Tobacco (Smoking)
If changing your lifestyle or taking prescribed drugs is not helping you with you, then consult with your doctors, and they will suggest other treatment plans. If you know a lot about what this kind of head pain involves, but your symptoms don’t match to the normally associated symptoms, you should look for other types of headaches and their symptoms.
Also note that other kinds of painful headaches can be confused with cluster headaches. For example, women have complained about headaches during certain times of the month. We have come to know these headaches as menstrual headaches, which can become very severe in some cases. It is amazing what the body can do and trigger these very painful headaches.
Overall, as we have suggested, if you suffer from painful headaches, you should consult your doctor. If you happen to have the symptoms listed above, this might help you to understand your condition better, and be able to share more information with a medical professional.