Are you suffering from an acute pain in one side of your head along with stuffy nose and a teary eye? It may be a Cluster Headache that you are suffering from. Read on to know what are Cluster Headaches as well as their causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.
What is a Cluster Headache?
It is a type of headache that affects only one side of the skull. The pain is acute and may last for a brief period or even in cycles that last for weeks and even years. This is a very rare condition that affects less than one percent of the population. It is men who are mostly susceptible to this syndrome. Cluster headaches in women are not as common.
The condition is also known as “Suicide Headache” as the pain resulting from this condition can even drive the sufferer to suicide. It is also called by other names like Histamine Headache and Migrainous Neuralgia.
Chronic Cluster Headache
Chronic Cluster Headaches are those that persist for over a year without going away even once or resolving only for a time period less than two weeks. These may either arise from the very beginning or originate from episodic headaches.
Cluster Headaches Symptoms
Some of the main symptoms of Cluster Headaches are
This condition is mainly characterized by headache, or pain in the head. The pain is persistent and sharp and causes extreme discomfort. This is accompanied by a severe burning sensation in the eye. The headache generally affects a person 2 to 3 hours after they have fallen asleep. Extreme cases of pain generally last for anywhere from half hour to two hours.
There is excessive discharge of tears from the eyes of the sufferer and this can affect the vision for some time.
Redness of eye
The discharge of tears is also accompanied by redness. Red eye helps in diagnosis of the condition by doctors. Redness is also seen in the face. The entire facial region appears flushed. It is one of the main Cluster Headache symptoms.
Patients often suffer from a runny nose. There may be temporary or constant discharge of mucus from the nose of sufferers.
In the absence of Rhinorrhea, sufferers may also experience stuffiness in only one nose. Stuffiness is usually experienced in the nose that is in the same side of the head where pain arises.
This condition may arise every day for several months. There can also be episodic headaches, meaning the pain in head can occur in some days and be non-existent in others. In some cases, the pain can last for a year or over without going away even once. This is known as Chronic Cluster Headache.
Cluster Headache Causes
It is not quite clear what causes Cluster Headaches. Numerous medical researches have failed to establish the exact causative factor of this condition. However, a number of factors are suspected to be the causes of Cluster Headaches. These Cluster Headache triggers are
Use of alcohol products like red wine and beer can trigger this headache. Even a little amount of these substances may give rise to Cluster Headache within ten to fifteen minutes.
Tobacco is not known to trigger this condition but can increase its intensity and prolong the duration of suffering. However, the odor of tobacco can trigger a Cluster Headache if you do not smoke.
Minor incidents that produce stress can give rise to this condition. It is necessary to stay as calm as possible to avoid making this condition more severe when you are already suffering from it.
Sudden change in temperature
The condition may also arise if the body is exposed to rapid alteration in temperature level. This usually happens if a person enters into a cool, air-conditioned room a warm outside or goes out from a cooled chamber to a hot outside.
Light of bright intensity
Bright light may also trigger headaches. It is important not to look at bright light for a long time as you may suffer from a sudden attack of this syndrome. Going out from a dark, semi-lit room to a bright, sunny exterior can trigger this condition.
Processed meat products like wieners, sausage and cold cuts are potential triggers for this highly discomforting kind of headache.
Drinking excessive amounts of coffee can give rise to this syndrome. Coffee consists of the substance Caffeine, a bitter alkaloid which can produce stimulating effects such as headaches.
Chocolates, especially the dark variety, can trigger this condition in its most severe form. People suffering from this condition should avoid all food items consisting of chocolate such as cakes, drinks and toffees.
Perfumes with strong odor such as colognes can also give rise to this highly discomforting syndrome.
Cluster Headache Diagnosis
The condition is usually diagnosed by physical examination and asking the patient about the symptoms. The medical history of the sufferer is also taken into account. In some cases, neurological examinations and tests like MRI of the head is also performed for diagnosis.
In case of a physical examination, doctors may find drooping of a small pupil or eyelid in one side of the head. This is known as Horner Syndrome. The symptoms are present only at certain times of the day. There is no other neurological symptom involved.
Cluster Headaches Treatment
The aim of Cluster Headache treatment is to provide relief to sufferers from the discomforting symptoms that this condition produces. Treatment for Cluster Headaches involve
Steroid medicines like Prednisone may be used for several weeks to reduce swelling. A high dose of this drug may be used initially and then reduced gradually.
Inhaling pure oxygen may also provide relief from these headaches. Oxygen Therapy for Cluster Headaches is especially required for those headaches that arise frequently and at night. It is one of the best Cluster Headache cures.
Injecting the drug known as dihydroergotamine (DHE) can provide sufferers with very fast relief. The medicine is known to cure headaches in as little time as five minutes. However, taking this drug along with Sumatriptan can be very dangerous for health.
Drugs like Valproic Acid and Topiramate may also be used to prevent seizure in sufferers of this syndrome.
Cluster Headache Medication
Some of the typical Cluster Headache medicines include
- Triptans, like Sumatriptan (Imitrex)
- Indomethacin or naproxen
- Lithium carbonate
- Calcium channel blockers like Verapamil
The goal of using these medicines is to reduce or completely obliterate pain, inflammation, tear discharge, seizures and other discomforting symptoms arising from this condition.
Natural Cluster Headache Relief
Natural treatment for cluster headaches involves herbs. Some herbs for cluster headaches are
Morinda Citrifolia : Also known as Noni, this fruit grows in countries like India, China and Polynesia. It has extraordinary healing properties as it contains enzymes that have therapeutic properties. Consuming dried Noni can help in treating Cluster Headaches.
Cayenne Pepper : Putting a small pinch of Cayenne Pepper inside the nostril of the affected side of the head can reduce symptoms of this disorder for extended duration.
Guarana and Ginko Biloba are some other herbs that act as natural remedies for cluster headaches. These help in providing Cluster Headache pain relief remedy.
Cluster Headache Surgery
In rare conditions, medications fail to improve this syndrome. In case of such persistent cluster headaches cure is done by performing surgery on certain nerve cells located in the brain.
Cluster Headache Prognosis
This is not a life threatening disorder but may cause extreme discomforts and even affect daily activities. If not treated in time, the condition can cause severe pain which may force the sufferer to cause self-harm. If treated properly, the condition may resolve in a few days or a few weeks. However, it may recur in some cases. Long time cure is needed to prevent such conditions.
Cluster Headache Complications
Unless treated in time, this condition may give rise to complications like
- Horner Syndrome
- Permanent muscular fatigue in head or face
- Reduced sensation in areas of head or face
In some cases, surgery and side effects of medicines taken to treat this condition may also produce grave symptoms.
Cluster Headache Prevention
This condition can be prevented by avoiding all foods and substances that act as the trigger of headaches. It is also necessary to practice meditation to reduce stress and avoid rapid temperature changes.
If you are experiencing symptoms similar to this condition, you may try home remedies for a day. If the syndrome fails to improve with home treatment, it is imperative that you visit or call a doctor as soon as possible. This will help you escape all possible complications and recover earlier.